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AAS Names Recipients of 2019 Awards & Honors

08 Jan 2019

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At its 233rd semiannual meeting in Seattle, Washington, the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the major organization of professional astronomers in North America, named the recipients of its 2019 prizes for outstanding achievements in scientific research, instrument development, and scholarly writing. AAS President Megan Donahue (Michigan State University) announced them during a brief ceremony on Tuesday morning, 8 January.

The 2019 Henry Norris Russell Lectureship, celebrating a lifetime of eminence in astronomical research, goes to Ann M. Boesgaard (University of Hawaii), in recognition of her pioneering, sustained work in using light-element abundances to test Big Bang nucleosynthesis and to probe stellar structure and stellar evolution.

The Dannie Heineman Prize for outstanding mid-career work in the field of astrophysics is given jointly by the AAS and the American Institute of Physics. For 2019 the prize goes to Edwin (Ted) Bergin (University of Michigan) for his pioneering work in astrochemistry and innovative contributions to our understanding of the physics and chemistry of star and planet formation, and for his tireless efforts to improve diversity and inclusion in astronomy.

Blakesley Burkhart (Rutgers University & Flatiron Institute) will receive the Annie Jump Cannon Award in Astronomy, which honors outstanding research and promise for future research by a postdoctoral woman researcher. Burkhart is cited for her leadership in studies of magnetohydrodynamic turbulence on all scales and in diverse astrophysical environments, using innovative techniques to carefully compare observational data with numerical simulations, guided by analytic theory, to improve our understanding of turbulence in the universe.

The Newton Lacy Pierce Prize, for outstanding early-career achievement in observational astronomical research based on measurements of radiation from a celestial object, goes to Daniel R. Weisz (University of California, Berkeley) for his transformational work on the star-formation histories of dwarf galaxies in the Local Group, our galactic neighborhood.

Jo Bovy (University of Toronto) will receive the Helen B. Warner Prize for a significant early-career contribution to observational or theoretical astronomy, specifically for his contributions to our understanding of the structure and dynamics of the Milky Way and his work on forward modeling of large scientific data sets.

The Joseph Weber Award for Astronomical Instrumentation celebrates the design, invention, or significant improvement of instrumentation leading to advances in astronomy. In 2019 the Weber Award goes to John D. Monnier (University of Michigan), for his pioneering work in high-angular-resolution studies with long-baseline optical interferometry, which have moved the field from measurements in visibility space to true imaging and opened up a new window on stellar astrophysics.

David Branch (University of Oklahoma) and J. Craig Wheeler (University of Texas at Austin) will receive the Chambliss Astronomical Writing Award for their advanced university-level textbook Supernova Explosions (Springer, 2017), an extraordinary compilation of information that is logically organized, benefits from clear and engaging writing, and features terrific insights of the kind you’d hope for from a mentor.

The AAS Board of Trustees may elect any astronomer of distinction who is not resident in North America as an honorary member. For 2019 this prestigious honor is bestowed upon Mario Hamuy (University of Chile). Home to many of the world’s most advanced observatories, Chile plays a huge role in US astronomy. Hamuy has made fundamental contributions to cosmology and supernova research and was, from 2016 to 2018, president of CONICYT, the agency that funds much of Chilean science.

Special Honors at the 233rd AAS Meeting

With support from the Kavli Foundation, the Society’s Vice-Presidents name a special invited lecturer to kick off each AAS meeting with a presentation on recent research of great importance. Earlier this week, the Kavli Foundation Plenary Lecture, “A Color Out of Space: ‘Oumuamua’s Brief and Mysterious Visit to the Solar System,” was given by Gregory Laughlin (Yale University), who explored what the discovery of the first confirmed interstellar comet tells us about planet formation and how we might find and characterize more such objects. Ka’iu Kimura from Hawaii’s ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center shared the stage to explain what the Hawaiian word ‘Oumuamua means and why it’s so appropriate for this icy dirtball.

The closing plenary lecture on Friday will be given by Elena Aprile (Columbia University), recipient of the Lancelot M. Berkeley - New York Community Trust Prize for highly meritorious work in advancing the science of astronomy. Her lecture, entitled “The XENON Project: At the Forefront of Dark Matter Direct Detection,” will describe her team’s groundbreaking search for the weakly interacting massive particles (“WIMPs”) thought to make up the mysterious dark matter that appears to provide most of the universe’s gravitational pull.

AAS Division Prizes

Most of the AAS’s six subject-specific divisions also award prizes, and three of them — the Historical Astronomy Division (HAD), Laboratory Astrophysics Division (LAD), and Solar Physics Division (SPD) — recently announced some of their 2019 awardees.

HAD gave its Donald E. Osterbrock Book Prize for Historical Astronomy to Stella Cottam and Wayne Orchiston for Eclipses, Transits, and Comets of the Nineteenth Century: How America’s Perception of the Skies Changed (Springer, 2015). Cottam and Orchiston received their award and gave a joint prize lecture in a HAD session on Tuesday, 8 January.

LAD’s highest honor, the Laboratory Astrophysics Prize, for significant contributions to laboratory astrophysics over an extended period of time, goes to Lucy Ziurys (University of Arizona) for her outstanding contributions to rotational spectroscopy of transient molecules and radio astronomy. The 2019 LAD Early Career Award goes to Brett McGuire (National Radio Astronomy Observatory) for his significant laboratory and observational advancements in our knowledge of the inventory and evolution of complex molecules in the interstellar medium.

Philip H. Scherrer (Stanford University) is receiving the SPD George Ellery Hale Prize, for outstanding contributions to the field of solar astronomy, for his pioneering work in helioseismology and space weather, his development of innovative instrumentation to study magnetic fields and flows on the solar surface and interior, his leadership in bringing these instruments to fruition, and his dedication to serving a broad community with excellent data. And SPD’s Karen Harvey Prize, for a significant contribution to the study of the Sun early in a person’s professional career, goes to Anthony Yeates (Durham University), for his outstanding contributions to the development of magnetic field evolution models, which have advanced our understanding of how the Sun’s magnetic fields originate, evolve, and govern the dynamics of the solar corona.

Buchalter Cosmology Prizes

Ari Buchalter (Intersection) is an astrophysicist-turned-businessman who remains keenly interested in cosmology. In 2014 he endowed the Buchalter Cosmology Prizes to reward new ideas or discoveries that have the potential to produce a breakthrough advance in our understanding of the origin, structure, and evolution of the universe beyond current standard cosmological models. The latest winners of the Buchalter 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes were announced at this week’s AAS meeting and are a team led by José Ramón Espinosa (Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology & Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats) for “A Cosmological Signature of the Standard Model Higgs Vacuum Instability: Primordial Black Holes as Dark Matter," Douglas Edmonds (Pennsylvania State University) and his colleagues for “Modified Dark Matter: Relating Dark Energy, Dark Matter and Baryonic Matter,” and Jonathan Braden (University College London) and his coauthors for “A New Semiclassical Picture of Vacuum Decay," respectively.

Rick Fienberg
AAS Press Officer
+1 202-328-2010 x116

High-resolution images of the AAS prizewinners are available from Crystal Tinch, AAS Communications & Engagement Coordinator.

The American Astronomical Society (AAS), established in 1899, is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. The membership (approx. 8,000) also includes physicists, mathematicians, geologists, engineers, and others whose research interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects now comprising contemporary astronomy. The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe, which it achieves through publishing, meeting organization, education and outreach, and training and professional development.