Press Release

RAS Announces Geophysics Medal Winners for 2006

By SpaceRef Editor
December 13, 2005
Filed under , , ,

Professor Stan Cowley, of the University of Leicester, has been awarded the Royal Astronomical Society’s highest award, the Gold Medal, for his outstanding contribution to the field of geophysics. Other winners of the RAS geophysics awards for 2006 include Professor Steve Schwartz of Imperial College London, Dr Clare Parnell of the University of St Andrews and Dr Brian Marsden of the Smithsonian Astronomical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Professor Cowley has played a pivotal role in understanding the interaction of the solar wind with the Earth’s magnetosphere. In particular, he has demonstrated that reconnection, a process where magnetic field lines are broken and rejoined, controls the large-scale dynamics of processes across the boundary between the magnetosphere and the solar wind. As a result of this work, reconnection is now understood to be a unifying framework for many magnetospheric phenomena throughout the Solar System. In awarding the Gold Medal to Professor Cowley, the RAS also recognises his outstanding work as a science communicator and his role in serving the scientific community.

The Chapman Medal has been awarded to Professor Steve Schwartz in recognition of his pioneering work in solar terrestrial physics and space plasma physics. His theoretical work in the early 1990s on the “quasi-parallel shock”, the component of the Earth’s bow shock believed to be responsible for particle heating and acceleration, has been confirmed in the past few years by observations from the Cluster spacecraft.

Dr Clare Parnell has been awarded the Fowler Prize for Geophysics in recognition of her outstanding contribution to solar physics, whilst still at an early stage of her research career. Dr Parnell’s research has had an international impact on the fundamental understanding of the heating of the solar corona, one of the major unsolved mysteries of solar physics in recent years.

The prize for Service to Astronomy and Geophysics goes to Dr Brian Marsden. Dr Marsden was Director of the International Astronomical Union’s Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams from 1968 to 2000, and is now Director Emeritus. In this capacity he was responsible for disseminating information about transient objects and events in all areas of astronomy and astrophysics. Since 1978 Marsden has also directed the IAU’s Minor Planet Center, which issues orbital and related information about comets and asteroids. From 1987 to 2002 he was Associate Director for Planetary Sciences at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Associateships of the Royal Astronomical Society, which honour eminent geophysicists who are not normally resident in the UK, are awarded to:

  • Professor Oddbjorn Engvold, Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics, University of Oslo, Norway
  • Professor Tuija Pulkkinen, Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland
  • Professor Sami Solanki, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Lindau, Germany

For more information on RAS medals, see:

SpaceRef staff editor.