Science and Exploration

AAS Division for Planetary Sciences Announces 2022 Prize Winners

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
AAS Division for Planetary Sciences Announces 2022 Prize Winners
August 22, 2022
AAS Division for Planetary Sciences Announces 2022 Prize Winners
AAS Division for Planetary Sciences
AAS Division for Planetary Sciences Announces 2022 Prize Winners

The Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) has named its prize winners for 2022.

The DPS awards the 2022 Gerard P. Kuiper Prize for outstanding contributions to the field of planetary science to Dr. Bonnie Buratti of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology for her distinguished achievements in the understanding of planetary and small-body surfaces through photometry, her career-spanning leadership in the planetary science community, and the legacy she has created through mentoring early career scientists. Nearly every planetary mission that has involved photometry over the past several decades has benefitted from Dr. Buratti’s modeling of the scattering of light and analysis of the physical properties of planetary surfaces. In addition, Dr. Buratti has led some of the most important observational campaigns conducted by these missions, such as Cassini. As just one example, Dr. Buratti made the definitive albedo map of Pluto and Charon. Dr. Buratti has served in numerous leadership roles in professional societies, including serving as Chair of DPS and NASA’s Small Bodies Assessment Group, and she has mentored many students every year. Many of her former students are now active planetary scientists at a wide range of institutions.

The DPS is pleased to award the Claudia J. Alexander Prize recognizing outstanding contributions by a mid-career scientist to Prof. Martha Scott Gilmore of Wesleyan University for her work on Venus’s geology and the oldest rock units on Venus located in high-lying tessera terrain. Prof. Gilmore has shown that the emissivity of tesserae differ from the presumably basaltic plains in a manner consistent with more iron poor, felsic compositions, which is the strongest evidence to date that these rocks contain evolved magmas formed on a more water-rich planet. She has shown that radar emissivity of tesserae and volcanoes varies regionally across the planet, indicating differences in rock composition and degree of weathering or age. Prof. Gilmore’s work has helped usher in a new decade of exploration of Venus with the selection of two new NASA Venus missions. In addition, Prof. Gilmore has served the community through membership in countless community studies and panels relating to Venus and has mentored nearly two dozen student theses.

The 2022 Harold C. Urey Prize for outstanding achievement in planetary research by an early career scientist is awarded to Professor Juan Lora of Yale University for his development of a novel global circulation model (GCM) of Titan, which he has used to successfully explain Titan’s precipitation patterns and surface liquid distribution. The model incorporates the effects of atmospheric hazes as well as the impact of Titan’s subsurface hydrology. This model is important for the success of the Dragonfly mission, and Prof. Lora is a valued team member. Prof. Lora has also applied similar techniques to Earth’s hydroclimate in order to understand changes in atmospheric rivers, which are a key component of the water cycle affected by climate change. This combined use of advanced GCMs represents a novel and compelling way of helping to protect our home planet. Prof. Lora is additionally noted for his mentorship of students and early career scientists.

The 2022 Harold Masursky Award for meritorious service to planetary science goes to Dr. Jim Green for his twelve years of service as head of NASA’s Planetary Science Division and four years as NASA Chief Scientist. He oversaw the Planetary Science Division through a period of great expansion and the implementation of numerous ground-breaking planetary science missions and research. He has made a great effort to expand NASA’s international partnerships, promoting the spirit of scientific collaboration and cooperation across boundaries, and he has helped foster the careers of many early career scientists.

The 2022 Sagan Medal for excellence in public communication goes to Dr. Caleb Scharf of Columbia University for broadening public awareness of fields from astrophysics and planetary science to astrobiology, and for stimulating insightful and balanced public conversation on the implications of contemporary research. Dr. Scharf is a prolific writer, having written articles in Scientific American that reach a large number of people. He has also written a widely used textbook on extrasolar planets and is a highly regarded author of popular science books on astrobiology, astronomy, and technology. He served on the editorial board of Nautilus science magazine and has contributed to a number of movies, documentaries, and popular television shows on science, inspiring many people.

The Jonathan Eberhart Planetary Science Journalism Award for distinguished popular writing goes to Michael Greshko of National Geographic for his article “Small Wonders,” published in National Geographic magazine on August 24, 2021. This elegantly written article takes the reader on a journey through the history of small-body science, covering near-Earth objects through trans-Neptunian objects. It deals with wide-ranging topics such as discovery and impact monitoring efforts, spacecraft exploration, as well as solar system formation models. It describes how small bodies could be responsible for life on Earth, but also have the potential to destroy it. In the end, the article evokes a sense of belonging and being intimately part of our solar system.

“I am amazed and awed by the accomplishments of this group of awardees. I am looking forward to seeing them at the London meeting so I can congratulate them in person,” adds DPS Chair Dr. Diana Blaney.

The 2022 DPS prizes will be presented at the 54th annual meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences, which will take place in London, Ontario and online from 2 to 7 October 2022.

Dr. Theodore Kareta
DPS Press Officer (incoming)
+1 (617) 671-5906

Dr. Shantanu Naidu
DPS Press Officer (outgoing)
+1 (917) 373-8840

Dr. Diana Blaney
DPS Chair

More information about DPS prizes:

54th annual DPS meeting, 2–7 October 2022:

The Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS), founded in 1968, is the largest special-interest Division of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). Members of the DPS study the bodies of our own solar system, from planets and moons to comets and asteroids, and all other solar-system objects and processes. With the discovery that planets exist around other stars, the DPS has expanded its scope to include the study of extrasolar planetary systems as well.

The American Astronomical Society (AAS), established in 1899, is a major international organization of professional astronomers, astronomy educators, and amateur astronomers. The mission of the AAS is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe as a diverse and inclusive astronomical community, which it achieves through publishing, meetings, science advocacy, education and outreach, and training and professional development.

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