Public Star Night – January 20th – Dr. Paul Lightsey – Webb Space Telescope


Berthoud High School Auditorium

Doors Open:  7:00 | Guest Speaker:  7:30-8:30 | Observing at LTO: 8:30-10:00

The Webb Space Telescope

What drove the design and how is it doing

A special presentation by

Dr. Paul Lightsey

Mission Systems Engineering, Ball Aerospace

People have been intrigued as they observed the night time sky since the first human looked up.  Only with the invention of the telescope did the even richer beauty of the sky open up.  Then with the advent of rockets, the possibility of placing telescopes above the atmosphere allowed observations to not only move beyond the acuity of the eye, but no longer limited by the spectral obscuration of the atmosphere. 

This talk will walk through this history and evolution of our knowledge of the universe that led to the questions captured by the four science themes that provided the guidance for the development of the James Webb Space Telescope: a large deployable cryogenic telescope in space observing in the Near Infrared and Mid Infrared Spectrum.

The architecture of the Webb Observatory and the unique technical solutions will be presented, including the six-month deployment and commissioning process following the launch on December 25, 2021. The Observatory is performing very well. The talk will conclude with a summary of some of the excellent observations that address the original design science themes.

About the Speaker

Dr. Lightsey has more than 50 years’ experience in Physics, Mathematics, and Engineering, much of which has been in the area of optical systems analysis and design. He was the Chief Engineer for the James Webb Space Telescope program at Ball, and one of the four optical thread leads for the combined NASA/contractor Mission Systems Engineering team. He has contributed to all phases of development from new business through design, fabrication, alignment, test, calibration, and on-orbit operations while at Ball. Dr. Lightsey has extensive experience working on Hubble Space Telescope (HST) instruments. He was the System Engineer for the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) which was installed with its sister instrument, the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) in February 1997. He developed a system optical performance model for design analysis of COSTAR, the corrective optics for the Hubble Space Telescope. COSTAR was installed aboard the HST in December 1993. This model includes modeling of structural dynamics and thermal effects on the imaging performance and was also used for the design of NICMOS and STIS.

Dr. Lightsey was involved in analyses and field experiments for the Retroreflector Assisted Imaging Laser Experiment (RAILE), and the Relay Mirror Experiment (RME). These activities included simulation and analytic modeling of atmospheric propagation of laser beams, optical pointing and tracking systems, and imaging performance. Dr. Lightsey has collaborated on the design and construction of an airborne coherent Doppler lidar for atmospheric remote sensing, and on studies for a coherent differential Doppler technique for air motion sensing from aircraft. Other activities have included spectrophotometric measurements of stratospheric ozone, stability analysis of gymnastics rotations, and low-temperature measurements of electronic transport and magnetic resonance properties in materials exhibiting metal-insulator transitions. Before coming to Ball, Dr. Lightsey was a professor of physics and mathematics for 14 years, teaching and writing articles on a diversity of topics. He has an eclectic publication record that includes articles in such diverse journals as Physical Review, American Journal of Physics, Journal of the International Society of Sports Mechanics, American Meteorological Society, Optical Engineering, Astronomical Society of the Pacific Proceedings, SPIE Proceedings, and Runner’s World.

Dr. Lightsey received his BS in Physics from Colorado State University in 1966, and his Ph.D. in Physics from Cornell University in 1972.  In 2003 he received the William H. Follett, Jr. Award for Excellence in System Engineering; in 2007 he received the Distinguished Public Service Medal from NASA; the highest award given by NASA to individuals not employed by NASA; and in 2022 he received the Ball Gabe Award for continuous outstanding professional effort.

Paul was born and raised in Wray, Colorado, and currently lives in Greeley with his wife, Carol, and their horses, dogs, and cats.  They enjoy outdoor activities, nature observation, genealogy, and choral singing.  He has been active in the past in competitive race walking (6 national medals) and running including the Boston Marathon.  They have one grown married daughter who is a biologist and carries on the family tradition of interest in nature and has provided them with a delightful granddaughter.

Following the talk by Dr. Lightsey, the observatory will be open for public viewing through our telescopes, weather permitting.

Posted in LTO News