Dr. Dan Coe is an astronomer at STScI and provides support for astronomers using and preparing to use the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope. As an instrument scientist for the JWST Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam), Dan wrote much of that instrument’s user manual in JDox (JWST Documentation) and developed more efficient dither patterns for NIRCam observations. He is also the Frontier Fields Lens Model coordinator.

As an astronomer, Dan discovers and studies the most distant galaxies known using the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes with the aid of gravitational lensing by massive galaxy clusters. He is the principal investigator of the Reionization Lensing Cluster Survey (RELICS), a 188-orbit Hubble Treasury Program. RELICS observed 41 clusters and delivered many of the best and brightest galaxies known in the universe’s first billion years (z ~ 6 – 10). Previously, as a co-investigator on the Hubble Multi-Cycle Treasury Program CLASH (Cluster Lensing And Supernova survey with Hubble), Dan discovered a strong candidate for the most distant galaxy known at z ~ 11. Dan also successfully advocated for lensing clusters to be included in the Hubble Deep Fields Initiative, which became the Frontier Fields.

Earlier in his career, Dan was a member of the HST ACS Guaranteed Time Observations (GTO) science team. He measured Bayesian photometric redshifts of galaxies in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field and derived the most detailed dark matter map to date (in 2010) of a galaxy cluster based on his strong lensing analysis of Abell 1689. Dan received his PhD from Johns Hopkins, splitting his time between there and the Andalusian Astrophysics Institute (IAA) in Granada, Spain. He went on to a Caltech postdoctoral scholar position at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) where he studied cosmological constraints from gravitational lens time delays. For his second postdoc, he worked on CLASH at STScI before joining the STScI staff as an astronomer in 2013.

Dan and his colleagues have used gravitational lensing to efficiently discover distant galaxies 97% of the way back to the Big Bang. We have yet to observe a single object that existed earlier than that, during the universe’s first 400 million years. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will enable astronomers to begin writing this first 3% of our cosmic history. Dan predicts that gravitational lensing will be the key to discovering the first galaxies with JWST.

Dan is excited to lead two JWST programs:

  • GO 1433 studying the z=11 candidate for most distant galaxy known: MACS0647-JD

  • GO 2282 studying the most highly magnified galaxy known in the first billion years at z=6

and be a co-investigator on:

  • GTO 1176 (PI Rogier Windhorst) observing 7 galaxy clusters (among other things)

  • GO 2561 "UNCOVER" (PI Ivo Labbe; Co-PI Rachel Bezanson) obtaining the deepest JWST data on any galaxy cluster in Cycle 1


  • 2007 PhD in Astronomy, Johns Hopkins University

  • 1999 BS in Applied and Engineering Physics, Cornell University

Science Interests:

  • Distant galaxy properties and evolution in the first billion years

  • Galaxy cluster formation, the growth of structure, and cosmological constraints

  • What is dark matter? Lensing constraints on particle properties

Research Topics:

  • High-Redshift Galaxies

  • Galaxy Groups and Clusters

  • Galaxy Formation and Evolution

  • Gravitational Lensing