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Awards, Medals and Prizes

Michael Penston Prize

RAS logoThe Royal Astronomical Society invites nominations for the Michael Penston Prize, which is awarded for the best doctoral thesis in astronomy or astrophysics.

The winner will receive a cash prize and an invitation to present the results of their thesis at a meeting of the RAS. The prize is named after Michael Penston (1943-90). A separate Keith Runcorn Prize is awarded for theses in geophysics (including planetary science).

Nominees are not required to be Fellows of the RAS, however the nomination should be submitted by a Fellow.

To be eligible, the thesis must have been:

  • Written on a topic in astronomy and astrophysics, including cosmology, astrochemistry, astrobiology etc. However planetary science and solar physics are not included and should be submitted for the Keith Runcorn Prize instead.
  • Submitted to an accredited university in the United Kingdom for the degree of PhD, DPhil or equivalent.
  • Recommended for the award of a doctorate by the examiners i.e. while students do not need to have attended a graduation ceremony, they do need to have successfully defended their thesis in a viva and submitted final corrections which have been approved by their University.
  • Nominations must by received by 31 January in the year following the final approval of the thesis.

Nominations should be submitted via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by 31 January for theses completed the previous year and should include:

  • A completed pdfMichael Penston Prize nomination form (also available in docWord format).
  • A nomination, written by the proposer, in the form of a citation (maximum length 500 words).
  • The abstract of the nominee’s thesis.
  • Additionally, the proposer should ask two referees familiar with the thesis (e.g. the examiners) to send supporting statements directly to the above address, by the same deadline.