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2005 ASP Annual Award Recipients

Maria and Eric Muhlmann Award
Robert Lupton
Princeton University, USA

Observational astronomy is being revolutionized by massive surveys made by both space- and ground-based instruments. As data pour in from these surveys, the notion of a virtual observatory—composed of these federated data sets—is becoming a reality, and the need for sophisticated software to gather, calibrate, and disseminate those data is critical.

It is fitting, therefore, that the Maria and Eric Muhlmann Award for innovative advances in astronomical instrumentation or software be awarded this year to Robert Lupton of Princeton University. Lupton, a leader in the construction of software to analyze a huge and exceptionally rich survey, is a man for whom, according to one colleague, “writing code is a form of artistic expression.” Beginning in 1990 he developed the software to reduce the 20 gigabytes of photometric data coming from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey per hour—data that need to be calibrated and then sorted into a catalog of magnitudes, colors, and other parameters.

To date, the SDSS Catalog amounts to a data volume approaching that of the Library of Congress! SDSS has proven to be a treasure trove for observational astronomers looking for rare objects like super-high-redshift quasars or low-temperature dwarf stars. Lupton himself has written papers on subjects ranging from RR Lyrae stars, low temperature dwarfs, asteroids, and high redshift quasars to large-scale galaxy-galaxy correlations in the SDSS data. But this year’s Muhlmann Award is given to him in recognition of his crucial role in developing software that benefits the entire astronomical community.