Max Mutchler ’90, Starman

It is every scientist’s dream to be the first to discover something. Max’s moment came in 2005 while working at the Space Telescope Science Institute. As he was cleaning and inspecting some Hubble Space Telescope images, two blips on the screen caught his attention. They were faint satellites moving around Pluto in the same direction as Charon, Pluto’s moon that was discovered in 1978. After Max worked with other scientists to verify the discovery, it was officially announced. Later Hubble observations in 2011 and 2012 revealed two more moons of Pluto. Asteroid “6815 Mutchler” was named in honor of Max’s role in these discoveries.

Max earned his master’s in space sciences at Florida Tech in 1990. A few months before completing his degree, he was hired to work at the Space Telescope Science Institute—just two weeks before the launch of Hubble. Thanks to the proximity of Florida Tech to the Kennedy Space Center, he was able to witness the launch of Hubble and his own career. “My time at Florida Tech helped prepare me for a fascinating career in space astronomy and realize a childhood dream,” he reflects.

Mutchler is currently a research and instrument scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) on the campus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. STScI is the scientific home of Hubble and the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope. He manages a group of thirty analysts and scientists, and continues to conduct scientific observations with Hubble. As an expert on Hubble’s cameras, he is a member of the team that has produced many of the iconic images that the telescope is famous for. He is pictured here with the Lagoon Nebula image that his team produced for Hubble’s 28th anniversary in 2018.

Max is also involved in a range of educational outreach activities, which have included producing tactile Hubble images with Braille captions and the first-ever astronomical star party on the South Lawn of the White House.

Mutchler was featured in Florida Tech’s 60th Anniversary special edition book, “60 for 60: Celebrating Sixty Years of Alumni at Florida Institute of Technology.” Copies are available for purchase here.

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