John A. Nousek

Senior Scientist and Professor
Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
Penn State University
Ph.D. in Physics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1978

Contact Information:

Office: 428B Davey Lab
Mailing Address: 525 Davey Lab, University Park, PA 16802
Phone: (814) 863-1937
FAX: (814) 863-3399

Office Hours: Advisees and other students should call or email to set up an appointment.

Research Interests:

X-ray astronomy hardware and software, electronic publishing and databases, unusual soft X-ray sources, statistical problems in astronomy, diffuse X-ray emission regions

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Penn State High Energy Astrophysics Group

John Nousek is a central member of the Penn State High Energy Astrophysics Group. The philosophy of the group is to maintain an active and vital program of instrument development and astronomical research within the setting of an educational institution. We seek to build detectors and experiments which open new windows of discovery space onto the Universe, and to involve students through the process of building, testing and use of these instruments to allow them the opportunity to learn the entirety of the challenge of state-of-the-art research, training them to fully appreciate the challenges of space instrumentation. Click here for more information about the Astronomy and Astrophysics Department as a whole.

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AXAF CCD Imaging Spectrometer (ACIS):

John Nousek is the PSU Lead Co-Investigator for the ACIS experiment. ACIS is the primary focal plane imaging detector on Chandra, the premier X-ray astronomy satellite of the next decade. Scheduled for launch in 1999, Chandra will offer the highest resolution X-ray images of objects in the sky likely to be seen in our lifetimes. The ACIS experiment offers simultaneous imaging and non-dispersive spectroscopy due to the usage of CCDs as single X-ray photon detectors.

Penn State responsibilities for ACIS include being the home institution for the Instrument Principal Investigator, Dr. Gordon Garmire; developing the ACIS ground software, under Dr. John Nousek; and measurement of the flight optical blocking filters, under Drs. Leisa Townsley and George Chartas.

Other collaborators on ACIS include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Space Research , MIT's Lincoln Labs, CalTech, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Carneige Mellon University.

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Astro-E is a joint Japan-U.S. X-ray astronomy satellite, planned for launch by a Japanese M5 booster in February, 2000. Yoshi Ogawara and Hajime Inoue of ISAS are the Japanese team leaders. Steve Holt of Goddard Space Flight Center is the NASA Project Scientist; Alan Bunner of NASA Headquarters is the NASA Program Scientist. The project scientific direction is given by a Science Working Group consisting of the preceding four people and nine international Science Advisors, including John Nousek of Penn State.

Major portions of the payload are:

The X-Ray Spectrometer, an array of X-ray microcalorimeters which provide non-dispersive X-ray spectral resolution of 10-20 eV. This instrument was originally developed for the U.S. Chandra (AXAF) program, but was transferred to Astro-E when the AXAF-S spacecraft was cancelled. The XRS will be built by the Goddard Space Flight Center and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The X-ray Imaging Spectrometer, four independent CCD camera/telescope units similar to the ASCA SIS and Chandra ACIS experiments. The cameras will be built by a consortium headed by Kyoto University and Osaka University, using CCDs developed at MIT and Lincoln Labs. The telescopes will be built at Goddard Space Flight Center.
The Hard X-ray Detector, a hard X-ray imaging scintillation telescope. The HXD will be built by the University of Tokyo and ISAS.

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Swift Gamma-ray Burst Explorer:

The Swift Gamma Ray Burst Explorer has a complement of three coaligned instruments: the XRT, the UVOT, and the BAT. The XRT and UVOT are X-ray and UV/optical telescopes, respectively, which produce precise positions for gamma-ray burst counterparts, only seconds after the bursts are detected by the BAT gamma ray burst detector.

Penn State's participation in the Swift mission includes responsibility for delivery of the XRT (building the X-ray camera, and incorporating the CCD electronics from Leicester University and the X-ray telescope mirrors from the Observatorio Astronomico di Brera), responsibility for the UVOT (providing the Digital Processing Unit, and integration with the Mullard Space Sciences Lab built telescope and detector units), operation of the satellite from the Penn State Mission Operations Center (MOC), and leading the Education and Outreach effort. John Nousek is the Principal Investigator for the Penn State activities related to Swift.

Swift's current status is that it has been selected for a September, 2003 launch by NASA's Office of Space Science. The mission is going through the Confirmation Review process, leading to NASA approval to proceed to final design. Two Preliminary Design Reviews were held at Penn State in August, 2000, one for the XRT and one for the UVOT.

The next Swift Science Team meeting will be held at Penn State in December, 2000. The following major milestones are the Critical Design Reviews, held in the spring and early summer of 2001. Following the CDR fabrication of the spacecraft and instruments will begin, leading to a May, 2002 delivery.


American Astronomical Society Publications Board

John Nousek was elected to membership on the AAS Publications Board in 1993. His term of membership expired in December, 1997. He was nominated for chair of the Pub Board in 1996 and 1999.

National Committee Membership:


John Nousek serves as the chair of the User's Group for the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archival Research Center (HEASARC) at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Minutes of the last meeting of the User's Group are available.

Technology Working Group:

The Technology Working Group has been created under the leadership of Dr. Jonathon Ormes of GSFC, and Dr. Stephen Kahn of Columbia University, to provide long range planning and advice to Dr. Alan Bunner, NASA HQ director of the Structure and Evolution of the Universe theme. The Working Group will identify the technologies needed to enable the critical discoveries about the physical nature of the Universe and how it evolved. The goal of the TWG is to lay out a roadmap of technological objectives which will enable accomplishment of the scientific priorities set by the SEUS (Structure and Evolution of the Universe Subcommittee) on a time scale of the next 10-20 years.

John Nousek served on the TWG, and participated in the meetings of the group, culminating in the Technology Roadmap, published in April, 1997.

Constellation-X Facility Steering Group:

Constellation-X is a NASA mission aimed at a new start in 2004. This mission will consist of a fleet of six satellites dedicated to collecting high numbers of X-ray photons from targets, which will enable the first truly high spectral resolution X-ray spectroscopy of astrophysical targets with high throughput.

John Nousek is serving on the Facility Steering Group which is planning the basic elements of the mission and technology development.

Penn State is working with the Reflection Grating-CCD technology development team for Constellation-X, under the leadership of Prof. Steve Kahn of Columbia University.


The Roentgen Satellit (ROSAT) was launched in 1990. It conducted the best survey of the low-energy X-ray sky presently available. Since then ROSAT has conducted pointed observations. John Nousek serves on the User Committee for the U.S. portion of this satellite.

SSDOO Steering Committee:

The SSDOO is an umbrella organization at Goddard Space Flight Center under the leadership of Dr. James Green. SSDOO includes the National Space Science Data Center (NSSDC), the Astrophysics Data Center (which processes U.S. ROSAT and ASCA data products), the Space Physics Data Center, the FITS standards office, and many other data and archive related functions.

John Nousek is a member of the steering committee, representing the Astrophysics community. If you have any concerns about the NSSDC or any other SSDOO activities which you wish to bring up, please send email to

AIP Subcommittee on Classification:

John Nousek serves as the astrophysics representative on the American Institute of Physics subcommittee on classification. This subcommittee maintains the system of classification of articles known as PACS, which is used to assign categories and keywords to all publications of the AIP.


Here is a list of both refereed and unrefereed publications of John Nousek since 1985.


Married, with three children.

Last updated August 3, 1999
Web page by John Nousek ( )
Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
Penn State University