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2002 ASP Award Recipients Press Release


San Francisco, Calif. – The Astronomical Society of Pacific (ASP), one of the world’s oldest and largest astronomy organizations, is proud to announce that astrophysicist Bohdan Paczynski of the Princeton University Observatory is the 2002 winner of its prestigious Bruce Gold Medal. The ASP also announces the winners of its Klumpke-Roberts, Brennan, Trumpler, Muhlmann, and Las Cumbres Amateur Outreach Awards.

The 2002 award recipients are:

The Catherine Wolfe Bruce Gold Medal: Bohdan Paczynski, Princeton University Observatory, Princeton, New Jersey. 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. Paczynski (pronounced pah-CHIN-skee) is recognized by the ASP for his revolutionary work in many fields of astronomy. His early research focused on understanding how stars evolve. Later, he made major contributions in our understanding of interacting binary stars, in which the evolution of one star affects its stellar companion.

In 1986, Paczynski published a seminal paper outlining how gravitational microlensing could be used to search for the mysterious dark matter. Subsequent surveys using Paczynski’s microlensing technique have revealed that at least a small portion of dark matter consists of ancient white dwarf stars, and that the Milky Way Galaxy has a central bar.

Since 1986, Paczynski has championed the idea that gamma-bursts occur at cosmological distances, and thus represent the most powerful explosions in the universe since the Big Bang. For years, he was a lonely voice in the wilderness, with almost all astronomers believing that gamma-ray bursts occur inside the Milky Way Galaxy. But observations over the last several years have proven that Paczynski was correct. Paczynski also helped develop the leading model to explain most gamma-ray bursts: that these extraordinarily powerful explosions result when massive stars collapse to form black holes.

The Klumpke-Roberts Award: Don Davis, Palm Springs, California, and Jon Lomberg, Honaunau, Hawai’i. The Klumpke-Roberts Award is presented in recognition of an individual’s outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy. This year, the ASP is proud to recognize two prominent space artists.

Don Davis has been a leading space artist for 30 years. His artwork appears in Carl Sagan’s books "Cosmos," "Pale Blue Dot," and the cover of "The Dragons of Eden." His paintings also appear in the book "The New Solar System," published by Sky Publishing Corporation. Magazines such as Parade, Saturday Review, and Sky & Telescope have published his art. He has produced artwork and animations for planetarium shows, movies, and television programs such as Timothy Ferris’s PBS series "Life Beyond Earth." He was awarded an Emmy for his work on the Cosmos television series. You can view examples of Davis’s artwork at www.donaldedavis.com.

Jon Lomberg gained fame as Carl Sagan’s long-time artistic collaborator. He was the chief artist for the television series "Cosmos," he designed the opening animation for the film "Contact," and he was design director for NASA’s legendary Voyager interstellar record. His artwork appears in many books, including the textbook "The Search for Life in the Universe" by Donald Goldsmith and Tobias Owen. He painted a famous mural of the Milky Way Galaxy that was displayed for 10 years at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. He is current creating visualizations of discoveries by the Gemini Observatory in Hawai’i. Lomberg’s artwork can be viewed at www.jonlomberg.com.

The Maria and Eric Muhlmann Award: François Roddier, Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawai’i. The Muhlmann Award honors scientists who have obtained important research results based upon their development of ground-breaking instruments and techniques. Since the 1980s, Roddier has played a key role in the development of adaptive optics, a revolutionary technique that allows ground-based optical telescopes to achieve angular resolution that rivals or even exceeds that of the Hubble Space Telescope. Adaptive optics employs computers, actuators, and deformable secondary mirrors to correct for turbulence caused by Earth’s atmosphere. The development of adaptive optics has been so successful that it is now used on many of the world’s largest professional research optical telescopes. Roddier pioneered the theory of adaptive optics, particularly in understanding atmospheric turbulence. He has also used his own equipment to conduct significant astronomical research in both the birth and death of stars. In 1999, Roddier and his collaborators made the first ground-based detection of Neptune’s ring arcs and an asteroid satellite. Recently retired, Roddier now lives in his native France.

The Thomas J. Brennan Award: Philip M. Sadler, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Brennan Award usually recognizes exceptional achievement related to the teaching of astronomy at the high school level. Sadler has led many astronomy education initiatives as the Director of the Center for Astrophysics’s Science Education Department. Project STAR, SPICA, and MicroObservatory have drawn together astrophysicists, education researchers, and astronomy teachers to advance high school astronomy teaching through exemplary materials and websites. Sadler makes frequent presentations at conferences, which have a profound impact on astronomy education in K-12 classrooms. While a middle school teacher in 1977, he invented the Starlab Portable Planetarium, which now brings the night sky to an estimated 12 million children every year. Sadler continues to perfect new teaching tools, like the Sunspotter Solar Telescope. He is well known for his research on students’ conceptions prior to teaching and how these notions play out in the development of scientific understanding in astronomy and physics. This work is publicized in the widely acclaimed video made with Matthew Schneps, "A Private Universe."

The Robert J. Trumpler Award: Volker Bromm, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Trumpler Award is given to a recent recipient of the Ph.D. degree whose doctoral research is considered unusually important to astronomy. Bromm received his Ph.D. in May 2000 from Yale University while working under Richard Larson and Paolo Coppi. His doctoral thesis "Star Formation in the Early Universe" addresses the problem of how the first generation of stars formed from gas clouds containing only hydrogen and helium. Using complex computational methods, and software he wrote himself, Bromm demonstrated that the first stars to form in the universe were extremely massive; a result that has been subsequently confirmed by other researchers. His thesis helps astronomers better understand the chemical and structural evolution of the universe. Broom’s research will help astronomers plan and eventually interpret observations of the early universe with instruments such as the Next Generation Space Telescope, the planned successor to Hubble.

The Las Cumbres Amateur Outreach Award: Dean Ketelsen, Tucson, Arizona. This award honors outstanding outreach by an amateur astronomer to children and the public. Since 1991, Ketelsen has organized the Grand Canyon Star Party, which has allowed tens of thousands of canyon visitors to better appreciate the night sky. Every year he organizes the "Star Party for 55,000" at a University of Arizona home football game. During this event, Ketelsen and Tucson area amateur astronomers set up telescopes outside the football stadium and give incoming fans views of astronomical objects. Among his many other astronomy activities, he has worked as a volunteer for the ASP’s Project ASTRO, bringing the wonders of astronomy into Tucson classrooms. He is currently a Senior Research Specialist in the Steward Observatory’s Mirror Lab in Tucson.

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 University of California, Berkeley, on Sunday September 29.

More information about the ASP’s 2002 award winners will be available in the July/August 2002 issue of Mercury, the bimonthly magazine of the Society.

For more information about the ASP’s 2002 Annual Meeting, which takes place in the San Francisco Bay Area on September 28-29, visit www.astrosociety.org/events/meeting.html or call the Meeting Coordinator at 415-337-1100 x100.

The non-profit Astronomical Society of the Pacific was founded in 1889 in San Francisco, and is still headquartered there today. The ASP has since grown into an international society. Its membership is spread over all 50 states and 70 countries and includes professional and amateur astronomers, science educators of all levels, and people in the general public. The ASP publishes the bimonthly Mercury magazine for its members, a technical journal for professional astronomers, and an on-line teachers’ newsletter. The ASP also coordinates Project ASTRO, a national astronomy education program. The Society produces a catalog and website of extensive astronomy-related products for educators and the public.