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UK and STFC experts honoured in Annual Awards for Astronomy

14 January 2020

A number of STFC-supported staff and researchers, including a team from RAL Space and a member of the STFC astronomy grants team, have been honoured for significant achievements in astronomy and geophysics by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) in its annual awards.

The RAL Space group responsible for the Heliospheric Imagers (HI) on board NASA’s STEREO mission are to receive the 2020 Group Achievement Award. This award recognises achievement by a large consortium in geophysics and has been awarded to the HI team for the entirely new perspective the instruments have given on the heliosphere and space weather.

The team is led by Principal Investigator Professor Richard Harrison at STFC RAL Space, and has produced over 300 refereed papers, 15 PhD theses from the UK and Ireland, and an active citizen science project for solar storm detection.

Professor Richard Harrison said, “The STEREO Heliospheric Imager instruments have been ground-breaking, providing us with an unprecedented view of the impacts of solar activity on the heliosphere and on Earth. I am immensely proud of the UK teams that built and now operate these novel instruments. The operations team serves a large national and international science and space weather community on a daily basis and I am delighted that this award recognises the work of everyone on that team."

Launched in 2006, STEREO consists of a pair of identical spacecraft orbiting the Sun, each moving slightly faster or slower than the Earth, resulting in a unique stereoscopic view.

The 2020 RAS Award for Service to the Astronomy and Geophysics Community has been given to STFC’s Kim Burchell. Kim Burchell is a member of STFC’s astronomy grants scheme and her 26 years of service and experience continues to be an invaluable resource to the UK astronomy and geophysics community. The award reflects the high esteem Kim is held in by the community and the work she has done over many years giving advice and support to Investigators and Panellists alike in her role administering the grants process for the astronomy and solar system community for STFC.

Speaking of the honour Kim said “I am both humbled and honoured to receive this award and I thank the UK Astronomy community for recognising me in this way. My interaction with the community, although not always easy, is one of the most rewarding elements of my job. I have been lucky enough to work with senior members of the community who have always shown me the utmost respect and I have always had the support of an excellent Astronomy team. My thanks to everyone.”

Other notable honourees include:

Professor Yvonne Elsworth from the University of Birmingham who has been awarded the RAS Gold Medal for her pioneering work in solar physics, with her outstanding achievements in helioseismology revealing fundamental insights into the structure and dynamics of the solar interior and core. Professor Elsworth is a member of STFC’s Solar System Advisory Panel.

Professor Rob Fender from Oxford University who is awarded the Herschel Medal.  Professor Fender is a world leader in the field of black hole accretion and jets and his work in understanding the connection between accretion and outflows around compact relativistic objects such as neutron stars and black holes has been transformative. He is also a member of STFC’s SKA Science Committee.

The full list of winners can be viewed at the Royal Astronomical Society website.

Last updated: 15 January 2020

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