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Blinn alumnus, aerospace scientist to speak to Brenham, Bryan students about gravity waves and a newly discovered exoplanet

Michael Harrison has worked on the Webb Telescope, the successor to Hubble

November 18, 2016

Michael HarrisonBlinn College alumnus and aerospace scientist Michael Harrison will return to Blinn’s Brenham and Bryan campuses Monday, Nov. 21, to discuss gravity waves and a newly discovered exoplanet.

Harrison will speak at noon in the Brenham Campus Student Center’s Janis Sneed Banquet Room (map), and at 4:25 p.m. in Bryan Campus Modular Building 2 (map).

“All those who attend certainly will get a perspective of what is going on in the sciences, especially astronomy,” said Kenneth French, Ph.D., Chemistry Professor. “This is a really good opportunity to get informed and to be inspired by a brilliant and gifted speaker.”

Harrison is part of a team that worked on the Webb Telescope, a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror. The telescope will be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana in October 2018, and will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of the universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth.

In addition to speaking about gravity waves and the recently discovered exoplanet Proxima Centaurus B, Harrison plans to speak about the decommissioned Chinese space station Tiangong-1, which currently is out of control and is expected re-enter Earth’s atmosphere in late 2017.

A Brenham native who attended Blinn in 1975-76, Harrison earned his bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and studied aerospace architecture at the University of Southern California at the graduate school of engineering. Upon graduation, he began working at TRW Space Technology in Redondo Beach, Calif., and has spent more than 35 years in aerospace science, working primarily in the design of data acquisition and satellite guidance systems.

In addition to his work in aerospace science, Harrison is passionate about computing and programming as well as filmmaking. In 1996, Harrison presented a film he wrote, produced and directed at the International Festival of Film at Cannes, France. Harrison is also a dedicated astronomer, hand grinding his own telescope mirrors. He is a member of an astronomy club that regularly demonstrates its telescopes for area schools.