UK experts honoured in Annual Awards for Astronomy

14 January 2019

A number of STFC-supported researchers have been honoured for significant achievements in astronomy and geophysics by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) in its annual awards.

This includes Professor Robert Kennicutt who has received the Gold Medal in Astronomy for his fundamental contributions to understanding star formation in galaxies and for the accurate determination of the Hubble constant.

For many years Professor Kennicutt, now at the University of Texas A&M, played a key role with STFC in the UK developing and reviewing international strategy for major research infrastructures in astronomy and also led the astronomy team at the University of Cambridge.

The RAS 2019 Geophysics Group Award was given to the Cluster Science and Operations teams, for their continued success ensuring the operations and scientific exploitation of the European Space Agency’s Cluster mission. This group includes a sizeable involvement from STFC RAL Space colleagues.

Cluster is the world’s leading multi-spacecraft mission to study the structure and dynamics of Earth’s magnetic and plasma environments. The Cluster Joint Science Operations Centre (JSOC) is located at STFC’s RAL Space facility in Oxfordshire, where it has operates since Cluster launched in 2000. The JSOC group generates the payload operation plan and translates it into the set of commands, to be uplinked to the spacecraft.

Anne Chadwick, the STFC Operations Manager at JSOC stated: “Coordinating the operation of up to eleven instruments on each of the four spacecraft can be a complex and demanding task and seeing the incredible results produced by the science teams has justified all the hard work that goes into the science planning.”

Other STFC-supported or related honourees include:

The 2019 Jackson-Gwilt Medal is awarded to Professor Anna Scaife from the University of Manchester. She is a world leader in imaging and an expert in building, commissioning and calibrating radio instrumentation, playing a significant role in helping deliver the scientific capability of the new generation of large radio telescopes. Professor Scaife has been supported by STFC in her role with the SKA project and is also strongly engaged with the STFC Data Intensive Science Collaborative Doctoral Training programme.

The Herschel Medal winner is Professor Nial Tanvir from the University of Leicester. He is a world leader in the studies of the explosive universe, principally through his contribution to our understanding of gamma ray bursts, using the NASA SWIFT telescope and other facilities, and has received STFC research funding.

Professor Bernard Schutz, from Cardiff University, is awarded the Eddington medal for his theoretical discovery that gravitational waves can be used to measure the cosmic expansion rate. STFC support the UK team working on the LIGO project studying gravitational waves.

Finally, Dr. Blake Sherwin is an STFC Ernest Rutherford Fellow from the University of Cambridge and has been awarded the Winton Award in Astronomy for his role in advancing cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) lensing from first detections to a mature field of precision cosmology.


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

Last updated: 15 January 2019

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