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Last Updated on Sunday, 01 December 2013 20:40
Published on Monday, 11 December 2006 00:00

gold-m.gifEach year, the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) presents a number of prestigious awards to members of the astronomy (A) and geophysics (G) communities for their outstanding contributions to science. The following awards were announced at the RAS Ordinary Meeting on 8 December 2006.

The Gold Medal for Astronomy is awarded to Professor J. L. (Len) Culhane of Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London (MSSL-UCL), for his work in X-ray astronomy, particularly in relation to the Sun. His early work with the proportional counter spectrometer on the UK/US Ariel-I satellite involved the first direct demonstration that the Sun's X-ray spectrum ‘hardened’ during solar flares and was due to emission from high temperature (10 million degrees Celsius) gas. In 1969, he was Principal Investigator (PI) for an advanced imaging detector on the OSO-8 satellite. He was subsequently involved in the Ariel V X-ray astronomy project and discovered emission lines which showed that the extended X-ray sources in galaxy clusters were due to the presence of large volumes of hot gas. Returning to solar work, he became PI for a series of X-ray and EUV spectrometers on NASA's Solar Max mission and Spacelab-2, and on Japan's Yohkoh mission. He was deputy director of MSSL for 8 years and director for 20 years.
The Gold Medal for Geophysics is awarded to Professor Nigel Weiss of the University of Cambridge. Professor Weiss is a world leader in mathematical analysis of solar convection and solar magnetohydrodynamics. He has long been a leading contributor to understanding the structure and stability of sunspots. In recent work, he and his collaborators have shown the importance of magnetic flux pumping by turbulent compressible convection in determining the complex structure of a sunspot's magnetic field. His many contributions to dynamo theory include an early study of a nonlinear model which simulates the modulation of the solar cycle, as observed in the 17th century Maunder Minimum. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1992 and was President of the RAS 2000-2002.
The Eddington Medal for Astronomy is awarded to Professor Igor Novikov, one of the world’s greatest astrophysicists. Professor Novikov is famous for his work in relativistic astrophysics, cosmology, and general relativity over more than 40 years. He co-authored the two most influential advanced texts on relativistic astrophysics and cosmology, and he has played an important role in leading research in Moscow, and then in Copenhagen, where he is now Director of the Theoretical Astrophysics Centre. He remains an active contributor to the study of the microwave background, large scale structure and general relativity. He is also an experienced populariser of his subject and a skilled lecturer who is able to reduce complicated technical ideas to their simplest terms. Novikov’s work is unusual in its combination of physical insight and mathematical expertise.
Two Fowler Prizes may be awarded to individuals who have made a particularly noteworthy contribution to the astronomical and geophysical sciences at an early stage of their research career.
The Fowler Prize for Astronomy is awarded to Dr. Graham Smith (University of Birmingham) in recognition of his early career achievements in advancing our understanding of the distribution of dark matter in galaxy clusters, and the impact of his work on attempts to measure the dark energy of the universe. Smith now leads the Local Cluster Substructure Survey, a large multi-disciplinary collaboration, spanning Europe, USA, Canada, Japan and Taiwan.
The Fowler Prize for Geophysics is awarded to Dr. Duncan Mackay (University of St. Andrews), one of the best of the new generation of young solar system physicists in Europe.  He already has an outstanding international reputation and is developing into one of the leaders in the field. His early research concerned the magnetic structure of prominences on the Sun. Many of their properties were not understood at all, but he tackled several of the major questions in this field with great effectiveness. Since then, he has branched out in several directions to focus on key topics in solar coronal physics, notably in coronal heating, the solar cycle and coronal mass ejections, producing landmark papers on each of these important topics.
The Price Medal is awarded to Professor Andrew Jackson (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology [ETH], Zurich, Switzerland) for his outstanding contributions to geomagnetism, particularly his compilation of historical geomagnetic field observations for the last 400 years and his interpretation of the geomagnetic secular variation. His thorough search of the archives and follow-up work has unearthed more than 8,000 new observations from the 17th century alone, and his new model runs for four centuries from 1590. The resulting historical field model is widely used throughout the geomagnetic and palaeomagnetic community. He has also devoted significant amounts of time to helping the community, notably membership of the team that led to ESA adopting the SWARM mission to measure the Earth’s magnetic field.
The RAS Award for Service goes to Professor M. Aftab Khan, who has been a stalwart servant of UK geophysics for over 50 years. Currently Emeritus Professor at the University of Leicester, his career has been singularly devoted to the promotion and promulgation of his science to all facets of our society; schools, business, media, adult education, amateur and professional societies, governments and the developing world. He helped initiate UK undergraduate degrees in geophysics, and his most recent task was to lead an extensive RAS and Geological Society enquiry into the state of geophysics education in the UK.
Associateships of the Royal Astronomical Society, which honour eminent scientists who are not normally resident in the UK, have been awarded to:
Professor Brian Boyle, Director of the Australia Telescope National Facility;
Professor Virpi Niemela, La Plata University, Argentina;
Roberto Terlevich, Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica Optica y Electronica, Puebla, Mexico;
Dr. Laike Asfaw, Director of the Geophysical and Astronomical Observatory, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia;
Professor Marcel Goossens, Catholic University, Leuven, Belgium;
Dr. James Klimchuk, Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, DC., USA.
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