Each year the RAS recognizes outstanding achievement in astronomy and geophysics by the award of medals and prizes. The awards are made by a committee of Fellows, following nomination by members of the research community, ensuring that these scientists have earned the respect and admiration of their peers. GOLD MEDAL (A) Prof. James Hough View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Over four decades, Prof. Hough (University of Glasgow) developed many of the key technologies and experimental techniques that made the first direct detection of gravitational waves possible. The discovery of gravitational waves arising from the coalescence of two massive black holes, by the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), is one of the most important scientific breakthroughs of the past decades. It has opened a new window onto the universe, revealing details of some of the most extreme events in Nature and allowing stringent tests of gravity and general relativity. The detection of gravitational waves required extremely precise measurements of tiny signals embedded in a very noisy environment. This was achieved using laser interferometers capable of measuring displacements of less than a thousandth of the diameter of a proton. Hough, working as part of the UK/German GEO600 team, developed sophisticated mirror suspensions that enabled LIGO to reach the sensitivity required for the discovery. (Photo: Univ. Glasgow) GOLD MEDAL (G) Prof. Robert White View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Prof. White FRS (University of Cambridge) has a lifetime of distinguished achievement in solid-Earth geophysics in which he has made fundamental, transformative contributions in the areas of mid-ocean ridges, mantle plumes and flood basalts, continental rifting, convergent margins, and dyke injection, seismicity and volcanism. He has trained more than 50 students and postdocs, many of whom have taken up senior faculty positions in academia and industry. White's early research career was in marine geophysics, where his work on magmatism associated with the early stages of rifting is probably the best known, most influential and most cited in his career so far. More recently, he has worked extensively and fruitfully in Iceland on the elevated Mid-Ocean Ridge where, in 2014 and 2015, his group used an array of 75 broadband seismometers to record a famous example of lateral melt propagation along a 46 km long dyke culminating in a surface eruption. His 250 peer-reviewed publications on geodynamics and geophysics have been cited more than 5500 times and are testament to the huge impact he has had on our understanding of the solid Earth. (Photo: Univ. Cambridge) EDDINGTON MEDAL Prof. Claudia Maraston View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Prof. Maraston (University of Portsmouth) is a world leader in modelling the spectral energy distribution of unresolved stellar populations, providing powerful tools for understanding galaxy evolution from high redshift to the present. Her landmark paper of 2005 provided the first evaluation of how the input from stellar evolution theory impacts the predicted integrated spectra of galaxies. New features in the models, particularly the inclusion of the evolved stellar phases (the thermally pulsating asymptotic giant branch) resulted in lower ages, helping to reconcile stellar population analysis of galaxy ages with the hierarchical galaxy formation scenario. Her models have generated huge interest and wide application. Her insights have pushed the details of stellar evolution into the realm of cosmology. (Photo: Univ. Portsmouth) CHAPMAN MEDAL Prof. Emma Bunce View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Prof. Bunce (University of Leicester) has contributed hugely to the understanding of the physical properties of the large-scale current systems flowing in the magnetospheres of the gas giants and, in particular, to their connection with the polar auroras. In these investigations of magnetosphere–ionosphere coupling, she has employed data analysis allied with theoretical modelling to examine related topics in the magnetospheric physics of Jupiter and Saturn. In particular she was the first to analyse simultaneous observations of Saturn's UV auroras by Hubble and in situ observations of magnetospheric currents in the high-latitude magnetosphere measured by Cassini, establishing a connection between upward-directed field-aligned currents flowing near the boundary of open and closed field lines and the auroral oval, as proposed in earlier models. As part of the Cassini magnetometer team, Bunce has established herself as the key team member who unites the in situ observations at Saturn with the auroral observations, while also placing them in the context of existing models. HERSCHEL MEDAL Prof. Tom Marsh View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Prof. Marsh (University of Warwick) has undertaken pioneering research into close binary star systems for 30 years. Foremost among his contributions has been the Doppler tomography technique, first described in a landmark paper in 1988 co-authored with Keith Horne. The method uses phase-resolved spectra to construct 2D velocity-space images, allowing astronomers to break the diffraction limit of conventional imaging. Its application reveals the micro-arcsecond structure of close binary star systems, delivering accurate masses for white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes. The technique unveils the detailed structure of accretion flows, including the intricate structure of accretion streams and hot-spot dynamics. It also led to the discovery of the predicted spiral-wave patterns in accretion discs during dwarf nova outbursts. PRICE MEDAL Dr Stuart Crampin View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Dr Crampin's (British Geological Survey, Edinburgh) singular achievement was to move seismic anisotropy into the mainstream of modern seismology. The theory was known, but he was in the right place at the right time to observe the effects of anisotropy as high-frequency local and downhole seismic monitoring proliferated, and match, and provoke others to match, the observations computationally. Above all, he persuaded others to look for anisotropy due to aligned cracks and pores, and to relate these to stress and fluids in the Earth's crust, in the formulation of anisotropic poro-elasticity (with Sergei Zatsepin). Both shear-wave splitting, which he advocated as an efficient detector of anisotropy, and velocity variation with direction, are now routinely observed and incorporated into modelling of fractured subsurface reservoirs, as well as the Earth's deep interior. JACKSON-GWILT MEDAL Prof. Wayne Holland View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Prof. Holland (UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Edinburgh) has made great contributions to the evolution of submillimetre astronomy from the era of single-pixel instruments to large-format imagers and, in particular, in his leadership of SCUBA-2, the world's most powerful submillimetre camera. He pioneered the development of the bolometric detectors used in the revolutionary SCUBA instrument for the JCMT, and became the SCUBA instrument scientist. He led the development of the next-generation transition-edge superconducting detector camera SCUBA-2 as project scientist. SCUBA-2 proved revolutionary in cosmology, nearby galaxies, star formation in the Milky Way, protoplanetary and debris discs, and evolved stars. (Photo: ROE) FOWLER AWARD (A) Dr Amélie Saintonge View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Dr Saintonge (University College London) is a leading observational astronomer who has made invaluable contributions to our understanding of the cycling of gas in and out of galaxies, and the relation between the gas content and star formation. She led the scientific interpretation of the largest systematic study of the atomic and molecular gas content in galaxies, demonstrating that high-redshift galaxies have high star-formation rates due to their large gas content rather than high merger rates. She produced the definitive census of the molecular and atomic gas content of galaxies across the entire local galaxy population, and has taken a leading role in assuring UK commitment to the JCMT. (Photo: UCL) FOWLER AWARD (G) Dr David Jess View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Dr Jess (Queen's University Belfast) is a remarkable early-career researcher and a leading international expert in solar physics who has dramatically improved the understanding of wave processes within the Sun's atmosphere. This has been achieved through his design, construction and implementation of state-of-the-art high-cadence imaging instrumentation, followed by the analysis and interpretation of cutting-edge data sets. Jess has also made substantial contributions to the study of solar flare characteristics, solar feature tracking, solar EUV spectroscopy and cool-star variability. (Photo: QUB) WINTON CAPITAL AWARD (A) Dr Rebecca Bowler View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Dr Bowler (University of Oxford) has made leading contributions to the understanding of luminous star-forming galaxies at ultra-high redshifts. During her PhD she led the ESO's UltraVista collaboration. Her work has been revolutionary, demonstrating that highly luminous objects exist into the epoch of reionization, and that quenching processes are not efficient at this time. She has been awarded time on Hubble, ALMA and VLT, all as principal investigator. In 2016, she was awarded the Block Prize for promising young physicist. Her first papers have been highly cited and her work is critical for predicting the yield of next-generation wide-area surveys such as Euclid and LSST. WINTON CAPITAL AWARD (G) Dr Kerri Donaldson Hanna View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Dr Donaldson Hanna (University of Oxford) is an exceptional planetary scientist specializing in studying the surface compositions of rocky, airless bodies through IR remote sensing. She has led work in combining data sets across multiple wavelength ranges, with particular success analysing the lunar crust and asteroid surfaces. She plays a central role on NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission to return a sample of asteroid Bennu to Earth in 2022. Her work in laboratory thermal IR spectroscopy will help underpin the interpretation of remote-sensing data from future missions. She has organized two RAS Specialist Discussion meetings and is an enthusiastic collaborator and mentor for young planetary scientists. (Photo: Univ. Oxford) SERVICE AWARD (A) Prof. Mark Cropper View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Prof. Cropper (Mullard Space Science Lab, UCL) has been instrumental in many of the most productive and ambitious space missions over a diverse range of disciplines, from stars to cosmology, for 30 years. He has secured leading roles for UK astronomers, led instrument teams and consortia, chaired the space science advisory committee, and acted as UK delegate to ESA. He took over managing the optical/UV telescope on ESA's XMM-Newton X-ray observatory in 1989. The success of XMM-OM created the opportunity to provide the UVOT instrument for NASA's Swift mission, in which he had a key role. He played a central role in the calibration of JWST's NIRSpec, acting as principal scientist in the system team. He made a significant contribution to the development of the Gaia Radial Velocity Spectrograph (RVS). He has roles in the ESA Euclid mission, including leading the VIS instrument and the Euclid UK programme. (Photo: UCL) SERVICE AWARD (G) Dr Matthew Taylor View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Dr Taylor (ESA) has made an outstanding contribution to ESA's Rosetta mission as project scientist. His contributions – including uniting the team behind the mission goals in order to solve the problems associated with orbital insertion around a comet and the achievement of Rosetta's objectives in a limited timeframe – were crucial to the mission's success. Furthermore, he spent considerable energy promoting Rosetta science to international audiences through social media, public lectures and TV and radio interviews. (Photo: ESA) GROUP ACHIEVEMENT AWARD (A) The Planck team The Planck team has achieved an extraordinary level of precision in measuring the oldest light in the universe, breaking new ground in areas of fundamental physics, galactic astronomy and cosmology. By building such a powerful and sensitive telescope to create maps of the microwave sky, the team has made the most precise determination of the age, composition and shape of the universe, including the most accurate test of the standard cosmological model. The large international team of scientists and engineers has provided exquisite maps of our own galaxy at 30 GHz–1 THz, revealing new insights into cold clouds, anomalous microwave background emission and the large-scale distribution of components of our interstellar medium. GROUP ACHIEVEMENT AWARD (G) COMET The Centre for Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Tectonics (COMET) has achieved a consistently high standard of insight into dangerous movements of the Earth's crust by exploiting new techniques in satellite geodesy that allow changes in position to be measured accurately and frequently. The team has revolutionized our understanding of crustal processes – magma and ground fluid movement connected with volcanism, and buckling of the crust before, during and after earthquakes. This includes work on the faults causing disasters such as the Bam (Iran, 2003) and Gorkha (Nepal, 2015) earthquakes, and the swelling and eruption of volcanoes worldwide. GEORGE DARWIN LECTURE Prof. Stephen J Smartt View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Prof. Smartt (Queen's University Belfast) is a leader in the field of supernovae, astrophysical transients and time-domain sky surveys. He showed that a new class of the most luminous supernovae can be quantitatively explained by the theory of magnetic neutron stars. He is now a leader in the search for the electromagnetic counterparts of gravitational waves, and recently led a paper identifying the first EM counterpart to a GW source, showing that it was consistent with a “kilonova” event. He has been awarded several prestigious research grants and has been elected to the Royal Irish Academy. (Photo: QUB) HAROLD JEFFREYS LECTURE Dr Alessandro Morbidelli View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Dr Morbidelli (Observatory of Nice d'Azur) is an expert on solar system dynamics. His research has encompassed the formation and evolution of planets, asteroids, the Kuiper Belt and extrasolar planets. With colleagues, in 2005 he published a model for the evolution of the early solar system based on orbital migration of the giant planets: the Nice model. His research interests include the asteroid belt; elemental and isotopic abundances and internal structures of planets, asteroids and comets; the dynamical stability of extrasolar planetary systems; and accretion in protoplanetary discs. (Photo: OCA) GERALD WHITROW LECTURE Prof. Martin Rees View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Prof. Rees (University of Cambridge), the Astronomer Royal, is one of the most distinguished theoretical astrophysicists of his generation. His transformational contributions laid the foundations for the modern understanding of galaxy formation and he is a pioneer of the current cosmological paradigm. He has also written and spoken extensively about the wider implications of science and cosmology, and sits in the House of Lords where he is an effective advocate for science. (Photo: Univ. Cambridge) JAMES DUNGEY LECTURE Prof. James A Wild View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Prof. Wild (University of Lancaster) is an enthusiastic and productive researcher in space plasma physics, including the nightside auroral ionosphere, the dayside plasma environment of near-Earth space, and the coupling between the solar wind, magnetosphere and ionosphere using ground-based radar observations by SuperDARN and in situ field and plasma measurements from Earth-orbiting satellites, notably Cluster. His current focus is on the links between the Sun, the Earth and other planets, notably Mars. (Photo: J Wild) PATRICK MOORE MEDAL Jenny Lister Jenny Lister (St George the Martyr Primary School, Camden, London) does phenomenal work inspiring her young students through space. For the Tim Peake Primary Project, she organized a huge number of events including a space week, a competition where the winners visited the RAS, assemblies about space, careers sessions, stargazing slumber parties, helping students create aliens from children's books, astronomy question-and-answer sessions, a resource handbook for each child and a space passport. She led the staff, developed their science-teaching skills and helped the school achieve the gold level “Primary Science Quality Mark”. Her head teacher says: “She continues to strive so that all the children have a questioning mind and a love of science.” ANNIE MAUNDER MEDAL Dr Helen Mason View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Dr Mason OBE (University of Cambridge) has led the popular educational website Sun|trek and, in 2015/16, supported the UKSA's educational effort, Principia, linked to Tim Peake's flight on the ISS, providing educational material. She currently holds an STFC Public Engagement Fellowship linking art and science. Mason takes her commitment to inspiring others seriously, going out of her way to engage underserved audiences. She is a phenomenally active role model for leading academics in public engagement. HONORARY FELLOWSHIP Prof. Pascale Ehrenfreund View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Prof. Ehrenfreund is chair of the executive board of the German Aerospace Center, is DLR research professor of space policy and international affairs at the Space Policy Institute in Washington DC, and visiting professor at Leiden Observatory, the Netherlands. (Photo: NASA Ames Research Center) HONORARY FELLOWSHIP Prof. Jaime Urrutia-Fucugauchi View largeDownload slide View largeDownload slide Prof. Urrutia-Fucugauchi is president of the Mexican Academy of Sciences, council member on the Inter-Academy Council and Inter-American Network of Science Academies, and member of the UNAM Governing Board and UNAM Foundation. MORE INFORMATION To find out more about the Society's awards, grants and prizes, see http://www.ras.org.uk/awards-and-grants/awards © 2018 Royal Astronomical Society
Astronomy & Geophysics – Oxford University Press
Published: Feb 1, 2018
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