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The Astronomical Society of the Pacific Announces Its 2017 Award Recipients for Astronomy Research and Education

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP), one of the oldest, innovative, and respected organizations in the U.S. dedicated to increasing the understanding and teaching of astronomy, is proud to announce the recipients of its 2017 awards for excellence in astronomy research and education.

The awards will be formally presented at the ASP Awards Gala (Ceremony and Banquet) on October 28, 2017 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Burlingame, CA.

More information about the ASP’s awards and past recipients can be found here.

Maria and Eric Muhlmann Award

John Wilson

The Maria and Eric Muhlmann Award recognizes significant observational results made possible by innovative advances in astronomical instrumentation, software, or observational infrastructure. The 2017 recipient of the Muhlmann Award is Dr. John Wilson (University of Virginia) and the APOGEE team for the design, construction, and commissioning of the APOGEE instrument located at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico – the linchpin of the APOGEE surveys that have been a part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III) and Sloan Digital Sky Survey IV (SDSS-IV).

APOGEE (Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Experiment) is a groundbreaking, high-resolution, near-infrared, spectrographic survey of red giant stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. By observing near-infrared light, the custom built APOGEE instrument can efficiently see through most of the obscuring dust to study the galactic bulge, disc, and halo. Collecting spectra from 300 targets simultaneously, APOGEE is responsible for the world’s largest high-resolution, near-infrared spectroscopic survey of stars in our Galaxy. After six years of operation, APOGEE has collected data on over 250,000 stars.

As one of the nominators stated, the APOGEE instrument “produced scientifically viable data the moment it was deployed onto the sky and functioned far better than anyone expected.” The instrument was so successful that a copy has been fabricated, installed, and started operating at the 2.5-meter du Pont Telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Northern Chile. This instrument, in a Southern Hemisphere location, together with the first instrument, provides the APOGEE Survey access to the entire Milky Way.

Robert J. Trumpler Award

Blakesley Burkhart

The Robert J. Trumpler Award is presented to a recent recipient of a PhD degree whose research is considered unusually important to astronomy. The recipient of the 2017 Trumpler Award is Dr. Blakesley Burkhart, who completed her PhD in astronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2014.

Her dissertation, New frontiers for diagnosing the turbulent nature of the multiphase magnetized medium, described innovative methods for measuring turbulence in a magnetized interstellar medium by connecting theoretical, computational, and observational results. Her dissertation didn’t just apply this innovative approach for a single example of turbulence, but presented several cases which span different phases of the interstellar medium of galaxies.

Burkhart’s dissertation builds on her earlier studies. Her first paper, published when she was an undergraduate, was highly significant with over 90 NASA ADS citations. Her subsequent papers on magneto-hydrodynamics (MHD), written before she completed her PhD, were equally well received and also extensively cited. She has given invited talks at prestigious international conferences, published findings in Nature, and was invited to write a book based on her dissertation.

As one of her nominators stated, “[Burkhart’s] thesis stands alone … In the future, the [ASP] will look back in satisfaction at having made an award to a person for whom the thesis was simply the beginning of an illustrious career.” 

Amateur Achievement Award

Gao Xing

The Amateur Achievement Award recognizes significant observational or technological contributions to astronomy by an individual not employed in a professional capacity. The 2017 recipient is Gao Xing, a distinguished amateur astronomer from Ürümqi, Xinjiang, China.

Gao Xing built Xingming Astronomical Observatory in 2007 with the help of Xinjiang Astronomical Observatory and colleagues, and used it to discover Comet C/2008 C1 (named Chen-Gao), Comet P/2009 L2 (named Yang-Gao), and Comet C/2015 F5 (named SWAN-Xingming). He has also found approximately 40 supernovae, a nova near the Galaxy’s center, several novae in M31 and M33, and several sungrazer comets and asteroids. Additionally, Gao has done many observations timely to gamma-ray bursts, near-Earth objects, comets, variable stars, etc. His observatory has three projects: Xingming Observation Sky Survey, Xingming Public Remote-control Observatory, and Popular Supernova Project (cooperating with China-VO and Ali Cloud, especially for the public).

Gao Xing has also received the Edgar Wilson Award, given to an international amateur astronomer by the IAU for achievements in comet discovery. He is currently a physics teacher at the Ürümqi No.1 High School in Ürümqi, China, and spends nights coordinating and executing the observations at the Xingming Observatory.

One nominator notes about Xing’s work at the Observatory…“Xing has unselfishly made the facility truly open and free for all: everyone can submit requests to Xing, who would spend his own time to coordinate and execute the observation…”

Klumpke-Roberts Award

Paul Delaney

Awarded to an individual or individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy, the Klumpke-Roberts Award for 2017 goes to Prof. Paul A. Delaney, Director of the York University Astronomical Observatory and former Director of the Natural Science Division at York University in Toronto, Canada.

Paul Delaney no doubt is one of Canada’s most dedicated astronomy enthusiasts. His media presence with broadcast television, NewsTalk radio in Canada, as well as the Discovery Channel’s “Daily Planet,” have made him the “go-to guy” when Canada needs an authoritative voice around the heavens. Promoting astronomy has been a lifelong pursuit for Delaney. Growing up in Australia he purchased his first telescope as a teenager, established a Radio Astronomy Club in high school, and joined the Astronomical Society of South Australia in 1972.

Delaney’s dedication to public outreach in astronomy started with his move to York University in Canada in 1986. His contributions to the public understanding of and enthusiasm for Astronomy since then have brought his excitement to Canadians and beyond. A weekly column, Astronomically Speaking, filled local newspapers between 2002 and 2009, thousands pass through the York University Observatory annually, weekly public viewings continue to this day,  and astronomy-related coursework continues to be offered at York University – these accomplishments and much more are only a small fraction of Delaney’s outreach successes.

As one nominator reminds us…“Paul’s substantial and significant contributions to the public understanding of astronomy have been acknowledged. In the past decade alone, he has been awarded the Sanford Fleming Medal (2010) from the Royal Canadian Institute for Science for ‘outstanding contributions to the public understanding of science’.”

Richard H. Emmons Award

Bruce Partridge

The Richard H. Emmons Award — established by Jeanne and Allan Bishop in honor of her father, Richard Emmons, an astronomer with a lifelong dedication to astronomy education — is awarded annually to an individual demonstrating outstanding achievement in the teaching of college-level introductory astronomy for non-science majors. The 2017 recipient is Prof. Emeritus Bruce Partridge, of Haverford College in Haverford, Pennsylvania.

A member of the Astronomy Department at Haverford College for 47 years, Partridge’s accomplishments also included a productive research career, notable service to Haverford College, and significant contributions to the general astronomy community. While teaching astronomy to both non-majors and astronomy majors at Haverford and Bryn Mawr College, Partridge used his up-to-date astronomical research, especially in extragalactic astronomy and cosmology, to create some of the most popular courses at the college. His passion for astronomy extended beyond the classroom to the mentoring of undergraduates in research; many of these students are co-authors on his many scientific papers.

Throughout his career, Partridge has an impressive record of service to the astronomy education and public education communities serving on the National Science Foundation’s Teacher Scholar advisory committee and as American Astronomical Society (AAS) Education Officer.

One of his nominators, a female student he had mentored, wrote…“I feel indebted to Bruce for including me and others like me in so many aspects of the scientific endeavor from such an early stage in my career, and for his supportive advice along that career path.”

Thomas J. Brennan Award

Sue Ann Heatherly

The Thomas J. Brennan Award is given to an individual demonstrating excellence in the teaching of astronomy at the high school level in North America. Ms. Sue Ann Heatherly, West Virginia Senior Education Office of the Green Bank Observatory (formerly the National Radio Astronomy Observatory) in Green Bank, West Virginia, is the recipient of the 2017 Brennan Award.

There is no doubt that Sue Ann Heatherly has left an indelible mark on students and teachers she has mentored through her 31 years of dedication to impact the approach teachers have toward understanding astronomy.

Heatherly started her career as a science teacher in rural West Virginia, and in 1987 she participated in the first teacher workshop held at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. In 1989 she was hired by the Observatory to expand the education and outreach program. Since then she has led many programs and projects focusing on astronomy education and STEM experiences available to many teachers and students. One such project, Physics Inspiring the Next Generation (PING), has given minority and female high school students immersive experiences in teamwork, science application, and operation of telescopes. Some of her further accomplishments include designing exhibits at the Science Center at the Green Bank Observatory and hosting more than 1,500 middle and high school students each year to conduct scientific research using a 40 foot diameter radio telescope at the Observatory.

A physics and astronomy teacher nominator praised…“Sue Ann doesn’t lead these programs for recognition but out of a driving passion she has for the successes others gain and the impact these astronomical experiences have on the students.”

Las Cumbres Amateur Outreach Award

Paul Winalski

Established by Wayne Rosing and Dorothy Largay, the Las Cumbres Amateur Outreach Award honors outstanding educational outreach by an amateur astronomer to K-12 children and the interested lay public. The 2017 recipient is Paul Winalski of the New Hampshire Astronomical Society, in Merrimack, New Hampshire.

Despite a demanding day job as software engineer for Intel Corporation, Paul Winalski has dedicated selfless hours of sharing the Universe with the public as lecturer and co-chair of the New Hampshire Astronomical Society’s Public Observing Committee for more than six years. Dedicating hours to the care and feeding of volunteers and over 100 events per year, Paul has not only attended just about every sky-watching event he has presented, but has also created long-lasting relationships with event hosts at schools, libraries, camps, and communities.

Help us celebrate his dedication to “sharing the wonders of the Universe with the public and inspiring young people to pursue the sciences for a better understanding of our world and the cosmos that surrounds us.”

In praise of his work, one of his nominators said… “Our sky-watch program is as good as it is because of his dedication and the immense amount of time he puts into it.”

About the ASP

Since its humble beginnings in 1889 as a membership society for professional and amateur astronomers, the ASP has evolved into one of the most recognized and well-respected nonprofit astronomy organizations in the country. The ASP is dedicated to bringing together professionals, amateurs, educators, and enthusiasts for the purpose of increasing the understanding of astronomy and improving how we teach that knowledge to others. Boasting a diverse portfolio of astronomy education initiatives funded by NASA and the NSF, professional research journals and publications, and annual awards designed to recognize the achievements of professional and amateur astronomers as well as the work done by formal and informal educators, the ASP is unique in its mission to foster science literacy through the wonder and excitement of astronomy. The ASP is headquartered in San Francisco, and is financially supported by donations, grants, corporate sponsorships, subscriptions, member dues, and retail sales.