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2001 ASP Award Recipients Press Release


The Astronomical Society of Pacific (ASP), one of America’s oldest and largest astronomy organizations, is proud to announce the 2001 winner of its prestigious Bruce Gold Medal, along with the winners of its Klumpke-Roberts, Brennan, Trumpler, Muhlmann, Amateur Achievement, and Las Cumbres Amateur Outreach Awards.

Each year, the ASP’s Board of Directors asks various individuals and institutions to nominate people for these awards. The ASP awards recognize meritorious work by professional and amateur astronomers, science educators, and those who engage in public outreach. The ASP will present this year’s awards at its annual meeting banquet at the Radisson Riverfront Hotel in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Saturday July 14, starting at 7:30 p.m.

The 2001 award recipients are:

The Catherine Wolfe Bruce Gold Medal: Hans Bethe of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The ASP’s highest honor, and one of the highest honors in the astronomical community, the Bruce Medal is presented for a lifetime of outstanding research in astronomy. Bethe is recognized by the ASP for his fundamental and life-long contributions to our understanding of how stars produce energy. Working with other physicists in the 1930s, Bethe calculated the detailed nuclear fusion reactions that power stars like the Sun. He explained how hydrogen nuclei fuse to form helium nuclei, giving off energy in the process. He also explained how more massive stars generate energy through the carbon cycle. Later research helped astronomers better understand how massive stars explode at the end of their lives as supernovae. For these and other contributions, Bethe was awarded the 1967 Nobel Prize for Physics. Bethe passed away March 6, 2005 at the age of 98.

The Dorothea Klumpke-Roberts Award: Sandi Preston, McDonald Observatory, University of Texas, Austin. The Klumpke-Roberts Award is presented in recognition of an individual’s outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy. Preston is responsible for all the McDonald Observatory public information programs, including the syndicated radio program and magazine StarDate. The radio program has been running for more than 20 years, and with its Spanish and German translations, reaches a combined weekly audience of 10 million listeners. The magazine has about 10,000 subscribers. The McDonald Observatory Visitor’s Center, near Fort Davis, Texas, serves over 130,000 people a year through star parties, exhibits, and educational material.

The Thomas J. Brennan Award: James G. Hill, Founder and Director of the French Camp Academy’s Rainwater Observatory and Planetarium in French Camp, Mississippi. The Brennan Award usually recognizes exceptional achievement related to the teaching of astronomy at the high school level. Besides teaching astronomy to high school students, Hill takes programs to other schools and libraries in the area and loans his materials to these groups. He conducts teacher workshops and introductory astronomy classes for the general public. He has taught gifted pre-college students in the Mississippi State University Summer Scholars program. Hill was also named a Mississippi STAR Teacher four separate times and he is a NASA/JPL Solar System Educator and Ambassador. He also established and coordinates the annual Mid-South Star Gaze.

The Robert J. Trumpler Award: Michael A. Pahre. The Trumpler Award is given to a recent recipient of the Ph.D. degree whose doctoral research is considered unusually important to astronomy. Pahre received his Ph.D. in 1998 from the California Institute of Technology while working under George Djorgovski. Pahre studied more than 300 galaxies in optical and infrared wavelengths and found that the ages, velocities, and distributions of their stars varied according to the mass of the host galaxies. His observations of more than 100 elliptical galaxies showed that stars in elliptical galaxies formed when the universe was only 10% of its current age. His data also showed an intriguing hint that less massive elliptical galaxies evolve slightly faster than more massive ones, implying that the low-mass galaxies formed later, which is in accordance with theoretical predictions. Pahre currently works at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

The Maria and Eric Muhlmann Award: Keith Taylor, California Institute of Technology. The Muhlmann Award honors scientists who have obtained important research results based upon their development of forefront instruments and techniques. While working at the Anglo-Australian Observatory and the Royal Greenwich Observatory, Taylor produced the first Fabry-Perot imaging spectrograph, which allows astronomers to investigate the velocity and distribution of elements in objects such as nebulae and nearby galaxies. He also played a key role in the development of the Low Dispersion Survey Spectrograph, which allows astronomers to take simultaneous spectra of galaxies in clusters. Perhaps Taylor’s most ambitious project to date has been the development of the Two-Degree Field (2dF) facility, which combines a highly complex wide-field corrector for the Anglo-Australian Telescope with 400 robotically positioned optical fibers that feed a pair of multi-object spectrometers. Taylor has served for over seven years as the 2dF Project Scientist and Manager. To date, the survey has produced redshifts for more than 170,000 galaxies.

Amateur Achievement Award: Syuichi Nakano, Sumoto, Japan. This Japanese amateur astronomer has computed comet orbits for almost a quarter of a century. He organizes Japanese amateur astronomers involved in astrometric work on comets and minor planets, as well as other Japanese observers involved in calculating orbits. He communicates their comet and asteroid discoveries to the International Astronomical Union’s (IAU) Minor Planet Center, and their nova and supernova discoveries to the IAU’s Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams. Nakano is a skilled computer programmer who has developed his own new methods for performing many of the orbital computations required for detailed study of possible comets and asteroids. He has also authored books and journal articles about comets and orbits. Nakano makes frequent television appearances in Japan.

The Las Cumbres Amateur Outreach Award: Joseph R. Caruso. This award, which is being given for the first time, honors outstanding outreach by an amateur astronomer to children and the public. Caruso is a technician at the Oak Ridge Observatory in Harvard, Massachusetts. Beyond his employment duties, Joe has made extraordinary and sustained contributions to astronomy education and outreach in the greater Boston area for more than 25 years. He has been a guest speaker at numerous local star parties, taught adult education classes in astronomy, taught technical astronomy courses to high school students, served as a judge at science fairs, and lectured at planetariums around New England. In 1997, Joe logged 87 nights of outreach activity.

More information about the ASP’s 2001 award winners can be found in the May/June 2001 issue of Mercury, the bimonthly magazine of the Society.