American Astronomical Society Announces 2009 Prizes

Press Release From: American Astronomical Society
Posted: Monday, January 26, 2009

Washington, DC. The American Astronomical Society (AAS) is announcing prizes for distinction in astronomy and astrophysics for 2009. The awards honor work done in such diverse fields as the formation and evolution of galaxies, the halo of our Milky Way galaxy, exoplanets, astronomical instrumentation, astronomical education and service to astronomy, and they include two awards for contributions to the study of gamma-ray bursts and one prize to an amateur astronomer. Two prizes are awarded for 2008.

"These are terrific achievements and the prizes are well deserved," said Dr. John P. Huchra, President of the AAS. Huchra is the Robert O. & Holly Thomis Doyle Professor of Cosmology and the Senior Advisor to the Provost for Research Policy at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA.

The Henry Norris Russell Lectureship for 2009, considered the highest distinction that is conferred by the AAS, is awarded to Dr. George W. Preston of the Carnegie Observatories, in Pasadena, CA. Dr. Preston is recognized for a lifetime of research that has transformed our understanding of RR Lyrae variables, stellar magnetic fields and stellar chromospheres, and led to a comprehensive view of the nature, chemistry, kinematics, and metallicity and age distribution in the Galactic stellar halo.

The Newton Lacey Pierce Prize for 2009 is awarded to Dr. Joshua Bloom of the University of California, Berkeley in recognition of his work to explore and understand the nature of gamma-ray burst sources, both as a successful observer of these enigmatic and highly transient phenomena, and through his work to synthesize these observations into a coherent model of the mechanisms and astrophysical sites of gamma-ray burst formation.

Dr. Alicia M. Soderberg of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA is the winner of the 2009 Annie Jump Cannon Award. The award recognizes her exploration of the physics of gamma ray bursts and supernovae and the connections between these two phenomena. Her ability to marshal observational resources spanning the electromagnetic spectrum and to integrate empirical results into a theoretical framework has produced striking results and promises much more for the future.

Dr. Scott Gaudi of The Ohio State University, in Columbus, is named to the Helen B. Warner Prize for 2009. He is recognized for significant and broad theoretical contributions to the field of exoplanet research, particularly in the area of micro-lensing detection and characterization of planetary systems, as well as for planets detected via transit and traditional radio velocity techniques.

The Joseph Weber Award for Astronomical Instrumentation for 2009 is conferred on Dr. Peter Serlemitsos of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. The prize recognizes his innovative contributions to X-ray detector and telescope designs that have enabled decades of scientific advances in high energy astrophysics. (The full citation for this award gives details of two landmark inventions by Dr. Serlemitsos, in detector design and thin-film X-ray optics and mentions many space missions that his advances have benefited.)

The AAS Education Prize for 2009 goes to Dr. Mary K. Hemenway, University of Texas, Austin. She is honored for her leadership and dedication to astronomy education and improvement of K-20 science education at the state and national level throughout her career. (The full citation for this award lists several other areas in which Dr. Hemenway has made lasting contributions.)

The George Van Biesbroeck Prize for 2009 is awarded to Father George Coyne of Specola Vaticana, Vatican City, in recognition of the diversity and scientific richness he has brought to the astronomical community through his visionary leadership of the Vatican Observatory Summer School and its long-term mentoring program, and for the unique role he has played at the juncture of science and religion. (The full citation for this award describes several of Father Coyne's other significant contributions.)

The Chambliss Award for Amateur Achievement for 2008 is presented to Steve Mandel of the Hidden Valley Observatory, Soquel, CA for his many contributions to wide-field imaging, including collaboration on the Mandel-Wilson Unexplored Nebulae Project, searching for extended far-red optical emission from extremely low surface brightness interstellar clouds in the Milky Way. (The full citation for this award describes several of Mr. Mandel's other significant contributions.)

The Chambliss Astronomical Writing Award for 2008 goes to Drs. Linda S. Sparke and John S. Gallagher, both of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, for their textbook "Galaxies in the Universe: An Introduction." The citation says in part that the book serves as an excellent foundation and introduction for new researchers, providing background for, and synthesis of, the many diverse topics necessary to understand galaxies: stellar structure and evolution, the interstellar medium, radiative transfer, gravitational dynamics and gas dynamics.

In addition to the above listed prizes awarded by the AAS, the American Institute of Physics and the AAS are jointly awarding the 2009 Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics to Dr. Lennox L. Cowie of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii, in Honolulu. The Prize is in recognition of "his innovative observations and studies of the distant universe, which have advanced significantly our understanding of the formation and evolution of galaxies."

For more information on the awards, including criteria for selection and the names of previous recipients, please see

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