Press Release

NASA’s Fishman receives 2011 Shaw Prize in Astronomy

By SpaceRef Editor
June 17, 2011
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Dr. Gerald J. Fishman, astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., has been named a recipient of the 2011 Shaw Prize in Astronomy, for which he will share a $1 million award.

Fishman is being recognized for his leadership in research that has shed new light on the space phenomena known as gamma-ray bursts — the brightest, most explosive events known to occur in the universe. He shares the award with Dr. Enrico Costa, director of research at the Institute of Space Astrophysics and Cosmic Physics in Rome, who also performs space-borne research in the study of gamma-ray bursts.

The awards will be presented at a ceremony in Hong Kong on Sept. 28.

Established in 2004 by Hong Kong media entrepreneur Sir Run Run Shaw, the Shaw Prize includes annual awards for achievement in the fields of astronomy; life sciences and medicine; and mathematics. The awards recognize individuals who have achieved significant breakthroughs in science and research with a positive, lasting impact on humankind.

Fishman, a NASA astrophysicist since 1974, was the principal investigator for the Burst and Transient Source Experiment or BATSE, an extremely sensitive gamma-ray burst detector which flew on NASA’s Compton Gamma Ray Observatory from 1991-2000. He currently is a co-investigator on the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor, a key instrument aboard the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, which was launched in 2008 and is still in operation. Its primary objective is also the study of gamma ray bursts that appear randomly in the sky at a rate of about 300 each year.

Gamma-ray bursts were first seen by American satellites in the late 1960s, but they remained a mystery for over three decades until BATSE and other high-powered instruments identified them: titanic detonations more than a million times as powerful as a supernova, heralding the death of massive stars, billions of light years from the solar system. Since then, researchers have used Fermi and other instruments to study these distant blasts in greater detail, determining that they likely signal the birth of new black holes.

“BATSE and other instruments helped lay the groundwork for many of the discoveries related to gamma-ray bursts that have been made since,” Fishman said. “It is a great honor to see that work — achieved through the efforts of so many people — recognized in this manner.”

“I am thrilled at the news of Dr. Fishman’s award,” said Dr. Daniel Schumacher, manager of the Marshall Center’s Science & Mission Systems Office. “The science we do at Marshall has a huge impact on our understanding of the universe in which we live, and Jerry Fishman is a crucial part of that success.”

Dr. James Spann, who manages the Science & Exploration Research Office at Marshall, agreed. “Many students and researchers who have worked under Jerry’s guidance and leadership are now leaders themselves, here at NASA and across the planet,” he said. “It is a privilege to work with him and to call him a colleague and a friend.”

Fishman received his undergraduate degree in physics in 1965 from the University of Missouri in Columbia. He earned his doctorate in space science from Rice University in Houston, Texas, in 1970.

He has published more than 200 scientific papers in his areas of research, and has been cited in other academic works more than 11,000 times to date, according to the Thomson ISI Highly Cited list. He was awarded the American Astronomical Society’s Bruno Rossi Prize for achievements in high-energy astrophysics in 1994, and received the NASA Outstanding Scientific Achievement Award for his research in 1982, 1991 and 1993.

Fishman and his wife, Nancy, live in Hampton Cove, Ala.

For more information about gamma-ray astronomy and other space science research conducted at the Marshall Center, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.