RAS PN 07/41: Mark Swinbank Awarded Sir Norman Lockyer Fellowship
ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY PRESS INFORMATION NOTE
Date: 13 September 2007 For Immediate Release
Ref.: PN 07/41
Issued by RAS Press Officer:
Dr Robert Massey
Tel: +44 (0)20 7734 4582
Mobile: +44 (0)794 124 8035
RAS Web: http://www.ras.org.uk/
MARK SWINBANK AWARDED RAS SIR NORMAN LOCKYER FELLOWSHIP
Dr Mark Swinbank of the University of Durham has been awarded the prestigious Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) Sir Norman Lockyer Fellowship. Dr Swinbank, who is currently a postdoctoral fellow, will take up the post in October 2008 to further his research into the formation of galaxies in the early Universe.
Dr Swinbank piloted the use of galaxy clusters as ‘gravitational lenses’ to image more distant objects. First postulated by Einstein, the mass enclosed within galaxy clusters is sufficient to magnify and stretch the images of distant galaxies that serendipitously lie behind them. This ‘natural telescope’ allows him to carry out pioneering studies of some of the most distant galaxies known in a level of detail that is unprecedented via conventional observations. In one spectacular example, a young galaxy (seen when the Universe was less than 10% of its current age) is observed to be driving a ‘superwind’ of material that is flowing out from the galaxy at high speed.
Astronomers now believe that superwinds in young galaxies form due to the collective effects of outflows from young stars and supernovae. These combine to drive a shell of material through the galaxy that eventually breaks out of the galaxy disk. The ejection of this material prevents forming galaxies from holding on to much more than 10% of the ordinary or ‘baryonic’ matter found in the Universe. Once it escapes a galaxy, this material can no longer form stars and planets.
At present, gravitational lenses are the only way to study the internal properties of galaxies at the edge of the observable Universe, but such observations should become routine when the new generation of Extremely Large Telescopes (ELTs) come online in the mid-2020s. Until then, Dr Swinbank’s work gives scientists an insight into the evolution of ordinary galaxies from the early Universe to the present day.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
The RAS founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The RAS organizes scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognizes outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and internationally. Its more than 3000 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.
Administered and awarded by the RAS, the Sir Norman Lockyer fellowship is intended to allow a worker at an early stage in their career to devote the majority of their time to research in any astronomical topic. Recipients hold the award for a three-year period.
Dr Mark Swinbank
Department of Physics
Rochester Building, Science Site
Durham DH1 3EE
Tel: +44 (0) 191 334 3786
Fax: +44 (0) 191 334 3645
RAS home page: http://www.ras.org.uk
Mark Swinbank home page: http://star-www.dur.ac.uk/~ams/