Press Release

Vera Rubin Wins 2003 ASP Bruce Medal and Other ASP Award Winners

By SpaceRef Editor
May 2, 2003
Filed under ,

San Francisco, Calif. – The Astronomical Society of the
Pacific (ASP), one of the world’s oldest and largest
astronomy organizations, is proud to announce that Vera
Rubin of the Carnegie Institution of Washington is the
2003 winner of the Society’s prestigious Bruce Medal for
lifetime achievement in astronomy. The ASP also
announces the winners of its Klumpke-Roberts, Brennan,
Trumpler, Muhlmann, Amateur Achievement, and Las
Cumbres Amateur Outreach Awards.

The 2003 award recipients are:

Catherine Wolfe Bruce Gold Medal: Vera Rubin, Carnegie
Institution of Washington. The ASP’s highest honor, and
one of the highest honors in the astronomical community,
the Bruce Medal is presented for a lifetime of outstanding
research in astronomy. It is with great pleasure that the
ASP bestows this year’s Bruce medal on Vera Rubin.

Rubin’s observational work in the 1970s showed that a
large fraction of the universe consists of dark matter.
Earlier observations had hinted at this, but Rubin’s work
was the first clear observational proof. By measuring the
rotational velocities of ionized hydrogen clouds in other
galaxies, she and her colleague Kent Ford showed that the
rotation of these galaxies could not be explained solely by
the gravitational attraction of the gas and luminous
matter. Today, the evidence for dark matter is
overwhelming, and the search for an explanation is one of
the hottest topics under study.

She has also done seminal work on the large-scale
streaming of galaxies. From observations of spiral
galaxies in many directions, Rubin and her colleagues
obtained radial velocities that indicated that the Sun, as
part of the Local Group of galaxies, is moving
approximately in the direction of the second bend in the
constellation Eridanus. Although these first results made
many astronomers uncomfortable, today it is clear that
luminous matter is distributed in a clumpy manner with
complex flow patterns.

Rubin is a member of the National Academy of Sciences
and a recipient of the American Astronomical Society’s
Russell Prize for lifetime achievement. She has been
awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical
Society, the first woman to be awarded this medal since
Caroline Herschel in 1828. She was the first woman to be
awarded observing time in her own right at Palomar
Observatory. Throughout her career, she has played a
very active role in encouraging and inspiring women in

The Klumpke-Roberts Award: Hubble Heritage Project,
Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), Baltimore,
Maryland. The Klumpke-Roberts Award recognizes
outstanding contributions to the public understanding
and appreciation of astronomy. This year the award goes
to the Hubble Heritage Project, led by principal
investigator Keith Noll of STScI. The Hubble Heritage
Team produces spectacular astronomical images and
releases one new image every month. The team produces
images from existing Hubble Space Telescope (HST)
archived data and from new observations obtained from
its small amount of HST observing time. The team selects
the HST images placed in the Heritage gallery, but it also
welcomes suggestions from visitors to its website, and in
the past it has even allowed on-line visitors to vote on
future HST targets. Since its debut in 1998, the team has
released more than 60 images. You can see the results of
this group’s efforts at

The Maria and Eric Muhlmann Award: Rodger Thompson
(University of Arizona) and the NICMOS Instrument
Definition Team. The Muhlmann Award honors scientists
who have obtained important research results based
upon their development of ground-breaking instruments
and techniques. Rodger Thompson and the rest of the
NICMOS (the Near-Infrared Camera and Multi-Object
Spectrometer) development team provided the near-
infrared camera for the Hubble Space Telescope. NICMOS,
which space shuttle astronauts installed in HST in 1997,
was the first large-array infrared detector camera in
space. After it ran out of coolant in 1999, astronauts
installed a new cooler in 2002, renewing the instrument.
The NICMOS team revolutionized infrared astronomy by
creating an instrument that has produced scientific
advances in areas from planet formation to cosmology.
The team also created a technology that has greatly
contributed to the advancement of ground-based infrared
systems. For a listing of all 17 team members, visit

The Thomas J. Brennan Award: Eugene S. Zajac, Shaker
Heights High School, Shaker Heights, Ohio. Gene Zajac
teaches astronomy at Shaker Heights High School and is
the Planetarium Director for the Shaker Heights School
District. Zajac has developed high school research
programs for seniors who devote the final quarter of
their year to a special research project. He has developed
audio-visual materials associated with two major
projects, a Mobile Observatory and a Mobile Space Station
Bus. He has created high school projects featuring ancient
observing sites, Galileo’s notebooks, telescopes in the
classroom, and others, which he shares with other
teachers at conferences. In his teaching he frequently
uses innovative models, such as a Stonehenge made of
Rice Krispies, and Oreo cookies to demonstrate lunar

The Robert J. Trumpler Award: Daniel E. Reichart,
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The Trumpler
Award is given to a recent Ph.D. recipient whose doctoral
research is considered unusually important to astronomy.
Daniel Reichart’s thesis provided strong evidence for the
connection between supernovae and gamma-ray bursts
(GRBs). In 1999, Reichart showed that a GRB that
occurred in 1997 coincided with what appeared to be a
supernova. The GRB-supernova connection, which has
been confirmed by a relatively nearby GRB-supernova
seen in April 2003, has led astronomers to the current
consensus that most GRBs result from the explosive death
of massive stars. Reichart also showed that the variability
in GRB light curves can be used as an estimate of the
bursts’ intrinsic luminosity and therefore give an
estimate of their distance. Reichart received his Ph.D. at
the University of Chicago in 2000. He then moved to the
California Institute of Technology, where he spent two
years as a Hubble Fellow. He is now an assistant professor
at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Amateur Achievement Award: Kyle E. Smalley, Harvard-
Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge,
Massachusetts. The Amateur Achievement Award goes to
an amateur astronomer who has made significant
observational or technical achievements. This year’s
winner, Kyle Smalley, has been deeply involved in the
study of near-Earth asteroids, mainly by providing timely
observations that guaranteed that more than 300 fast-
moving and faint objects have firm orbits. As a member
of the Astronomical Society of Kansas City, Smalley spent
hundreds of hours taking CCD images, mainly with the
society’s 0.75-meter reflector at Powell Observatory.
Smalley also developed search procedures to recover
near-Earth asteroids that had been lost for years after
their initial discovery. Smalley remains an amateur
astronomer despite recently being hired as a temporary
consultant at the International Astronomical Union’s
Minor Planet Center (MPC). There, at the nexus of
asteroid discovery, he advises amateurs and computes

The Las Cumbres Amateur Outreach Award: Mario Motta,
Lynnfield, Massachusetts. This award honors outstanding
outreach by an amateur astronomer to children and the
public. For many years, cardiologist Mario Motta has
made outstanding contributions to public education, in
schools and other venues. Since his presidency of the
Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston in 1994, Motta has
guided that organization in producing widespread public-
school star parties. As a participant in the ASP’s Project
ASTRO, Motta gives bimonthly talks to 5th- and 6th-
graders, particularly in his hometown of Lynnfield. His
efforts led the Lynnfield Parent-Teacher Association to
raise funds for the purchase of an inflatable planetarium,
and Motta continues to train teachers to take full
advantage of its capability.

Each year, the ASP’s Board of Directors asks various
individuals and institutions to nominate people for these
awards. The ASP awards recognize meritorious work by
professional and amateur astronomers, science educators,
and those who engage in public outreach. The ASP will
present this year’s awards at the Society’s Annual
Meeting banquet at the Woodfin Hotel in Emeryville,
California, on Saturday, October 11.

More information about the ASP’s 2003 award winners
will be available in the July/August 2003 issue of
Mercury, the bimonthly magazine of the Society.
Publishable photos of the award recipients can be
downloaded at
More information about the Bruce Medal can be found

For more information about the ASP’s 2003 Annual
Meeting, which takes place in the San Francisco Bay Area
on October 11-12, visit or call the
Meeting Coordinator at 415-337-1100 x109.

The nonprofit Astronomical Society of the Pacific was
founded in 1889 in San Francisco and is still
headquartered there today. The ASP has since grown into
an international society. Its membership is spread over
all 50 states and 70 countries and includes professional
and amateur astronomers, science educators of all levels,
and people in the general public. The ASP publishes
Mercury for its members, a technical journal for
professional astronomers called Publications of the
Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and an on-line
teachers’ newsletter. The ASP also coordinates Project
ASTRO, a national astronomy education program. The
Society produces a catalog and website of extensive
astronomy-related products for educators and the public.

SpaceRef staff editor.