9 February 2017

Dan David Prize for 2017 Celebrates Time-Domain Astrophysics

Richard Fienberg

Richard Fienberg American Astronomical Society (AAS)

This post is adapted from a press release issued by the Dan David Foundation:

The Dan David Prize, headquartered at Tel Aviv University, annually awards three prizes of US $1 million each to outstanding figures whose work represents remarkable achievement in selected fields within the three time dimensions: past, present, and future. For 2017 the fields are archaeology and natural sciences, literature, and astronomy.

The Dan David Prize is proud to announce that USA astrophysicists Prof. Neil Gehrels and Prof. Shrinivas Kulkarni, and Polish astronomer and astrophysicist Prof. Andrzej Udalski, are the 2017 laureates in the future time dimension in the field of astronomy. 

Neil Gehrels, of Maryland, sadly passed away on 6 February, before he could be notified of his prize. He specialized in the field of gamma-ray astronomy and was the principal investigator of NASA's Swift Gamma Ray Burst Mission, a robotic spacecraft observatory launched in 2004. Under his leadership, Swift discovered more than 1,000 gamma-ray bursts and transmitted data on their properties, distances, and environments, expanding the field well beyond its previous borders.

Shrinivas Kulkarni is a professor of astrophysics and planetary science at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. A leading figure in time-domain astrophysics across the electromagnetic spectrum, he built and conducted the Palomar Transient Factory, a large-area survey of the night sky in search of variable and transient phenomena. The survey has turned up thousands of stellar explosions, transforming our knowledge of the transient sky.

Andrzej Udalski is director of the Astronomical Observatory of the University of Warsaw. He is a pioneer in the field of time-domain astronomy, exploring the variable sky in the Milky Way and its neighboring galaxies. Through his work in gravitational microlensing he has discovered and characterized more than a half million variable stars. These discoveries are essential for understanding the formation of planetary systems.

Gehrels, Kulkarni, and Udalski, along with four other prize winners in the other two fields, will be honored at the 2017 Dan David Prize Award Ceremony at Tel Aviv University on 21 May 2017.

The Dan David Prize is named after the late Mr. Dan David, an international businessman and philanthropist whose vision is the driving force behind prize. His aim was to reward those who have made a lasting impact on society and to help young students and entrepreneurs become the scholars and leaders of the future. The prestigious prize, which stands in the forefront of the world's awards, is presented to individuals and institutions with proven excellence in the sciences, arts, and humanities, and whose work has made an outstanding contribution to humankind.