Jonathan McDowell's Personal Home Page

I'm an astrophysicist working at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics as part of the Chandra X-Ray Center, which operates the Chandra X-ray Observatory spacecraft. You can contact me at jcm@cfa.harvard.edu or jmcdowell@cfa.harvard.edu.



MATERIAL ON THIS WEBSITE IS PUBLISHED IN A PERSONAL CAPACITY AND DOES NOT CLAIM TO REPRESENT THE OFFICIAL OPINION OF THE CXC, HARVARD, THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION, NASA, OR ANYONE BUT ME.


In addition to my day job I carry out research into the history of the space program and write an email-distributed newsletter, Jonathan's Space Report . From 1993 to 2010 I wrote a monthly column for Sky and Telescope Magazine which I still recommend as a great source of astronomy info. I've also appeared on TV around the world pontificating on the latest goings-on in space and have now ventured into the podcastosphere. You can see me chat with Neil Tyson at the WGBH Forum, and some TV here, and on some CfA items


Also check out Jonathan's Space Homepage.

Scientific Interests:

  • Quasar Energy Distributions project
  • Continuum emission from quasars and AGN
  • Black holes
  • Dark matter
  • Chandra software
  • X-ray data analysis
  • Chandra X-ray Center (AXAF) documents
  • SAO Summer Intern Program
  • Virtual Observatory

    Other Interests:

  • Travel

  • Teaching scientists how to spell
  • History of the space program
  • History of other things
  • Reading and writing
  • Political activism
  • Science and art
  • Ranting about computers

    Eponymous minor planet: (4589) McDowell


    My first astronomy job came when I left high school and worked for six months at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, at that time located at Herstmonceux Castle in Sussex. After a math degree at Churchill College, Cambridge and a summer job at Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, I began a Ph.D. at the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge (the real Cambridge, I mean). This turned out to be a work of fiction about stars that never existed and predicted a submillimeter background radiation that was later discovered and shortly thereafter retracted. I decided it was time to work on things one could really observe, and went to do a postdoc at Jodrell Bank. After a brief flirtation with the microwave background I got interested in the physics of quasars and have been stuck trying to figure them out ever since. I came to CfA in 1988 as a postdoc, escaped to Huntsville, Alabama in 1991 but the lure of Harvard Square was too strong and I've been back here since 1992. Most recently I've been studying nearby galaxies with the Chandra X-ray Observatory and working on the Virtual Observatory project.

    My Erdos number is 5

    You can also read a more formal bio.

    New: home video of Kennedy Space Center during STS-93 launch

    Links