Press Release

Astronomers Honored with Prizes for Outstanding Work

By SpaceRef Editor
January 23, 2013
Filed under , ,

At its 221st semiannual meeting two weeks ago in Long Beach, California, the American Astronomical Society (AAS) named the recipients of its 2013 prizes for achievements in research, instrument development, education, and writing.

The Society’s prestigious Henry Norris Russell Lectureship is awarded to Kenneth C. Freeman (Australian National University) for a lifetime of seminal contributions to the fields of galaxy structure and dynamics and stellar populations. Throughout his career, Ken Freeman has advanced our understanding of the structure and evolution of galaxies by combining theory and modeling with observations. Through his many Ph.D. students and his generous interactions with countless colleagues, his influence on galactic and extragalactic astronomy has extended far beyond his own research.

The Lancelot M. Berkeley – New York Community Trust Prize for Meritorious Work in Astronomy goes to Eiichiro Komatsu (Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics) for using the cosmic background radiation, large-scale structure, and expansion rate to place tight new constraints on the standard cosmological model. His report in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement (2011, vol. 192, pg. 18), written with 20 co-authors, was the most highly cited astronomy paper in 2012.

The Newton Lacy Pierce Prize for outstanding achievement in observational research by an early-career astronomer goes to Jason Kalirai (Space Telescope Science Institute) for major contributions to the field of stellar and galactic astrophysics, including establishing the stellar initial-final mass relation, a fundamental aspect of stellar astrophysics that describes the fraction of mass loss that various types of stars experience over their lives.

The Helen B. Warner Prize for a significant contribution to observational or theoretical astronomy by an early-career scientist goes to Mark Krumholz (University of California, Santa Cruz) for major theoretical contributions in the areas of massive star formation and the interstellar medium, both in our own galaxy and in the early universe.

The Annie Jump Cannon Award for outstanding research and promise for future research by a woman goes to Sarah Dodson-Robinson (University of Texas, Austin) for her contributions to the study of the formation of planetary systems. Especially notable is how her insights into giant planet formation in our own solar system and in exoplanetary systems arise from combining theoretical modeling with observations of stars and circumstellar disks. She showed that both core accretion and gravitational instability may operate in different regions around stars of different masses to form giant planets.

The 2013 Joseph Weber Award for instrumentation goes to Keith Matthews (Caltech) in recognition of his many contributions to infrared astronomy at the Palomar and Keck observatories. The reliability, sensitivity, and innovative qualities of his instruments have enabled ground-breaking scientific discoveries for decades. For example, his NIRC2 camera behind the adaptive-optics bench at the Keck 2 telescope enabled the characterization of the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy.

The Dannie Heineman Prize in Astrophysics, awarded jointly with the American Institute of Physics, recognizes exceptional work by mid-career astronomers. The 2013 Heineman Prize goes to Rachel Somerville (Rutgers University) for providing fundamental insights into galaxy formation and evolution using modeling, simulations, and observations.

The 2013 Education Prize goes to John R. Percy (University of Toronto) for more than 40 years of tireless advocacy for K-12 astronomy education in Canada and worldwide, during which he has trained and mentored many people who themselves have made major contributions to astronomy, astronomy education, and amateur astronomy. John Percy is further recognized for leading and promoting effective partnerships with amateur astronomers and informal educators, for his public outreach efforts and leadership through numerous scientific societies, for his role in programs that use astronomy to inspire youth throughout Canada and in underserved communities worldwide, and for inspiring the international Galileo Project combining astronomy, music, and visual arts.

The Chambliss Astronomical Writing Award for an academic book goes to Abraham (Avi) Loeb (Harvard University) for his lively but concise account, “How Did the First Stars and Galaxies Form?” (Princeton University Press, 2010). Avi Loeb addresses astronomical processes in a physically intuitive manner, with an emphasis on the big picture. This book provides excellent supplemental material for university classes in cosmology and galaxy formation.

Recognizing the contribution of nonprofessionals to the advancement of astronomical research, the AAS gives the 2013 Chambliss Amateur Achievement Award to Kian Jek, who works in the Zooniverse’s Planet Hunters program using data from NASA’s Kepler mission. His efforts have been instrumental in the discovery of several planets that had been missed by the Kepler automated data-processing pipeline. His contributions as a “citizen scientist” are both original and significant.

At the Long Beach AAS meeting, some 325 undergraduates and graduate students presented poster papers based on their research and competed for the Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Student Awards. More than 100 professional astronomers volunteered to review the students’ work, resulting in the awarding of 11 Chambliss medals for exemplary research. The names of the winners (and of additional students who were awarded honorable mentions) are posted online at

Division Prizes

The AAS’s five subject-specific divisions also award prizes, and two of them have just selected their 2013 recipients.

The High Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD) is awarding its Bruno Rossi Prize to Alice K. Harding (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center) and Roger W. Romani (Stanford University) for establishing a theoretical framework for understanding gamma-ray pulsars. These unusual objects, the collapsed remnants of massive stars that have exploded as supernovae, are rapidly spinning neutron stars that emit gamma-ray photons and sometimes (but not always) radio photons. Work by Harding and Romani has helped elucidate that the radiation at different wavelengths comes from different regions of the pulsar that differences between pulsars can result from different orientations toward Earth and/or from different angles between the stars’ spin and magnetic axes.

The George Ellery Hale Prize of the AAS Solar Physics Division (SPD) is awarded to a scientist for outstanding contributions to the field of solar astronomy. The 2013 prize goes to Richard Canfield (Montana State University) for his pioneering work on dynamics and radiation in solar flares and on the origins and implications of magnetic helicity in active regions, as well as for his role as a leader and mentor.

SPD’s Karen Harvey Prize, which recognizes a significant contribution to the study of the Sun early in a person’s professional career, goes to Tibor Torok (Predictive Science, Inc.) for his innovative numerical studies and theoretical analyses of the role of magnetohydrodynamical instabilities in the initiation and driving of coronal mass ejections.

Rick Fienberg
AAS Press Officer
+1 202-328-2010 x116

More information about AAS and Division prizes, along with lists of past recipients, can be found here:

Photos of the new AAS prizewinners are available from Crystal Tinch ( at the AAS Executive Office.

The American Astronomical Society (AAS), established in 1899 and based in Washington, DC, is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. Its membership of about 7,500 individuals also includes physicists, mathematicians, geologists, engineers, and others whose research and educational interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects now comprising contemporary astronomy. The mission of the AAS ( is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe. Among its many activities, the AAS publishes three of the leading peer-reviewed journals in the field: The Astrophysical Journal (, The Astronomical Journal (, and Astronomy Education Review (

SpaceRef staff editor.