Broad Band was designed and built at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and a young PhD
student – in her 20s at the time – was given an extraordinary opportunity to
work in this new frontier of astronomy.
“She was a pioneer in that field,”
said Professor Christopher Reynolds, an expert in Black Holes at the University of Maryland.
“Kim Weaver was one of a small number of people who were very
influential in setting the stage for studies of black holes, using x-ray telescopes
to study black holes,” explained Reynolds.
Kimberly Ann Weaver, 47, grew up in Monongalia County, WV, and is an
astrophysicist at the Goddard Space Flight Center. The sprawling campus
encompasses nearly 1300 acres. More scientists and engineers work here than
anywhere else in the United States.
Weaver is also the author of the book, The Violent Universe – Joyrides Through the X-Ray Cosmos. The adjunct professor of astrophysics at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore is profiled in the
upcoming West Virginia Public Radio Inspiring
West Virginians documentary.
“I’m mostly interested in other galaxies and Black Holes and the centers
of galaxies and quasars, the early universe, the birth of galaxies, how stars
began to form in the beginning of the universe – how did that happen? Where did
the first Black Holes come from? We have
no idea,” said Weaver at the Goddard Space Flight Center.
A Black Hole is a region in space that has super-intense gravity.
“In other words, it pulls space around itself so tightly that nothing
can escape if something falls inside.
Light can’t escape,” she explained. “Nothing can escape. For the most part – black holes gobble things
up. A star can fall into a black hole
and you don’t know what happens to it.”
The story of how this petite woman came to work at the cutting edge of
space exploration begins in West Virginia, when she was
“On Sundays my grandfather would love to take the car out for a drive, and
one Sunday we went down to southern West Virginia to visit my great-grandmother
who lived there very close to the Green Bank Observatory in Pocahontas County.”
Weaver recalled. “So we would be driving past the giant 300 foot dish and I was
so excited by that thing because it looked like it didn’t belong there.”
“It looked like science fiction to me, and my grandfather would say ‘well,
that’s what the Jolly Green Giant eats his dinner from.’ And I’d say, ‘That’s
not true, Grandpa!’”
Twenty years later, while Kim was interning at the Green Bank
Observatory and using the “Jolly Green Giant’s dish,” she discovered a small
“You can see the Milky Way right above you there. It’s a wonderful place to see the sky.”
Weaver grew up in Cheat Lake, near Morgantown, the elder of two
daughters. Her mother is an artist and
homemaker and her father was an entrepreneur.
And though she was an outstanding student, she says as a kid, she felt
like an outsider, that she never quite “fit in”.
An excellent singer, she dreamed of going on Broadway. And then, she had another dream.
“I had a huge dream starting in 7th grade to conduct the WVU
marching band,” she said. “That became my focus for years.”
And she made it. In 1985 and 1986, Weaver was the field conductor of the
WVU marching band. She also became Miss
But being a female physics major, she faced the first discrimination of
her life. Weaver had gotten engaged and a certain physics professor was not
going to hold her back.
“I wore my ring to class and he saw it and he said, ‘Well, you’re never
going to become anything. You’re just
going to get married and I don’t even know why you’re here,” she recalled. “He
said, ‘Why am I wasting my time with teaching you physics?’”
Weaver proved him wrong. In 2011 she
became the youngest inductee of the WVU Academy of Distinguished Alumni. She’s also served as an outside adviser to
the West Virginia University Physics Department.
Today in her spare time Weaver is an accomplished actress and singer in
community theater. And she’s about to embark on a project at NASA to study a
whole class of galaxies.
Weaver will be featured, along with 3 others, in the documentary Inspiring West Virginians, produced by
Jean Snedegar and Suzanne Higgins, airing Thursday, Sept. 13 at 9 pm, on West Virginia Public Radio.