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2009 ASP Award Recipients Press Release

Astronomical Society of the Pacific Announces 2009 Award Winners in Astronomy Research and Education

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) today announced the winners of its 2009 awards for excellence in astronomy research and education.

The Maria and Eric Muhlmann Award, for the development of innovative research instruments and techniques, has been awarded to the Swift mission team. NASA's Swift satellite is a small and innovative spacecraft whose instruments are dedicated to the study of gamma ray bursts and their afterglow, combining gamma ray, X-ray, ultraviolet and optical data to characterize some of the most energetic events in the universe. Its findings have so far ranged from the detection of X-ray emission from comets as charged particles from the sun interact with cometary gases, to the identification of short gamma ray bursts with the merger of neutron stars or a neutron star with a black hole. Swift recently detected of the most distant gamma ray burst yet: the likely explosion of a massive star some 13 billion light years distant, when the universe was a mere 630 million years old. The Swift lead scientist is Dr. Neil Gehrels at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Dr. Edward Fenimore from Los Alamos National Laboratory, a member of the Swift team, will accept the award on behalf of the team at the ASP awards banquet on September 15 in Millbrae, California.

The Robert J. Trumpler Award, for outstanding recent Ph.D. thesis has gone to Dr. Kevin Bundy, currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley. In his Caltech thesis, Dr. Bundy used observations with the Wide Field Infrared Camera (WFIR) at Palomar Observatory to quantify the galactic process called "downsizing," in which the sites of active star formation shift from high-mass galaxies early in the history of the universe to lower mass galaxies as time goes on. His study indicated that there is a galaxy mass limit beyond which some mechanism inhibits star formation so that massive galaxies become quiescent. Bundy's analysis of the evolution of the star formation rates and of galaxy morphology has been widely cited and is considered an important constraint on theories of early galaxy formation.

The Thomas J. Brennan Award for excellence in the teaching of astronomy in grades 9-12, has gone to Ardis Herrold, astronomy and Earth sciences educator at Grosse Pointe North High School in Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan. Ms. Herrold, a former president of the Michigan Earth Science Teachers Association, formed an astronomy club at the high school that developed into the Radio Astronomy Team which she advises and which was credited as being the first high school group to build its own radio telescope from scratch in the U.S. She also takes students to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) for research experiences. Herrold's students have won top astronomy awards in science fairs, and have gone on to careers as PhD scientists and engineers; in 2005, she was selected as science fair Teacher of the Year for her support of the Science and Engineering Fair of Metro Detroit. Herrold has also participated in the Spitzer Space Telescope Research Program for Teachers and Students.

The Klumpke-Roberts Award for contributing to the public understanding of astronomy has been awarded to Dr. Isabel Hawkins, recently retired senior fellow, research astronomer and director of the Center for Science Education at the Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Hawkins' work with the Exploratorium in San Francisco and with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center to enable web casts of eclipses and other events has demonstrated the power of the Internet to reach the public; the web cast of the total solar eclipse in 2006 was viewed by the public worldwide. As the co-director of the NASA-sponsored Sun-Earth Connection Forum, Hawkins led in the establishment of Sun-Earth Day as a national event and developed partnerships with observatories and planetariums to develop programs conveying the excitement of astronomy to the public. She has also been a leader in connecting with Native American and Hispanic communities to share astronomy traditions: she has played a major role in the planning and implementation of the "Ancient Observatories-Timeless Knowledge" series of web casts from Chichen Itza, Mexico, and she has developed multilingual materials on Mayan archaeoastronomy and solar imagery.

The Amateur Achievement Award for significant observational or technological contributions by an amateur astronomer has been awarded to the late Thomas Droege of Batavia, Illinois, for developing CCD instrumentation and a worldwide sky survey program. A former engineer at Fermilab, Droege built his own device for making "drift-scan" surveys of wide areas of the sky. His development of this instrumentation led to The Amateur Sky Survey (TASS) in which teams of amateur astronomers around the world measure vast areas of the night sky to learn more about the bright stars of the Milky Way. TASS teams have measured more than 350,000 stars down to magnitude 14. Mr. Droege's award will be accepted on behalf of his family by TASS associate Michael Richmond on September 15.

The Las Cumbres Amateur Outreach Award for outstanding public outreach to K-12 students and the public by an amateur astronomer has gone to Carol Lee Lutsinger of Brownsville, Texas. An educator and amateur astronomer, Lutzinger is a co-founder the South Texas Astronomical Society and a JPL/NASA Solar System Ambassador. Widely known throughout her community for her work in astronomy and science outreach, she presents a weekly astronomy program at the Brownsville Public Library and reaches thousands of children from low-income families in her work with the Brownsville Children's Museum. She also works with the Texas Space Grant Consortium to develop statewide science teacher workshops focused on space science and astronomy, and in partnership with the University of Texas, has conducted special outreach programs for the visually impaired.

The ASP previously announced Dr. Frank Shu of the University of California, San Diego, as the 2009 recipient of the Catherine Wolfe Bruce Gold Medal for lifetime achievement in astronomy. Shu is well known for his theoretical contributions to the understanding of galaxy structure, star formation, chondritic meteorites and the dynamics of planetary rings.

"The 2009 award winners demonstrate a remarkable array of accomplishment, and show just how much people can achieve working both as individuals and as teams," said James Manning, ASP Executive Director. "The ASP is proud to recognize excellence in astronomy research, education, and popularization with the hope that these winners will inspire others to achieve their very best."

The awards will be presented at the ASP awards banquet on September 15 in Millbrae, California, as part of the Society's annual meeting.

Founded in 1889 in San Francisco, the ASP's mission is to increase the understanding and appreciation of astronomy by engaging scientists, educators, enthusiasts and the public to advance science and science literacy. The ASP publishes both scholarly and educational materials, conducts professional development programs for formal and informal educators, and holds conferences, symposia and workshops for astronomers and educators specializing in education and public outreach. The ASP's education programs are funded by corporations, private foundations, the National Science Foundation, NASA, private donors, and its own members.