German Astronomical Society Announces Prize Awardees for 2019
The German Astronomical Society is pleased to announce the awardees of its 2019 prizes to honor scientists with outstanding achievements in astronomy – among them the Karl Schwarzschild Medal to Ewine van Dishoeck. The award ceremonies will be held during the Annual Meeting of the German Astronomical Society from 16 to 20 September 2019 at the University of Stuttgart, Germany.
Ewine van Dishoeck, Professor of Molecular Astrophysics at the University of Leiden, receives the Karl Schwarzschild Medal of the German Astronomical Society 2019 for her research on the origin of stars and planets. The award recognises distinguished international astrophysicists for outstanding scientific contributions. Ewine van Dishoeck is an expert on submillimeter and infrared astronomy. With the highest award for astronomical research in Germany, the Astronomical Society honours her research on the boundary of astronomy, molecular physics and chemistry. She has made important contributions to our understanding of the matter between stars: large clouds of gas and dust that are the birthplaces for solar systems like ours. By using observations, theory and experiments, she has shown how molecules form and evolve in these interstellar clouds. By studying interstellar molecules, she made significant impact on the understanding of the formation of stars and planets.
Ewine van Dishoeck is also the president of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), holds many national and international science policy functions and already received a number of awards for her accomplishments.
The Instrument Development Award was established in 2016 by the Astronomical Society and is awarded for the design, development, construction and significant extension of an astronomical instrument that led to remarkable progress in astrophysical research. For the instrumentation of the Gaia mission the German Astronomical Society awards the prize to Erik Høg (Copenhagen, Denmark), Michael Perryman (Bath, England) and Lennart Lindegren (Lund, Sweden). Gaia is one of the most successful space missions. The second data release, published in April 2018, already led to more than one thousand scientific publications – an enormous success which is just a foretaste of the full scientific breakthrough expected by Gaia. Developed by a large and complex group of astronomers and engineers the three awardees stand out in particular: while Lennart Lindegren made fundamental contributions to the data analysis and auto-calibration, the other two awardees were of paramount importance to Gaia’s instrumental and operational development. Erik Høg has been a leading innovator in modern astrometry in the optical spectral range. Michael Perryman played a crucial role in the organisational development of the project and its implementation at ESA.
For his work in the fast-growing field of the search for the earliest and most distant quasars in the universe, the German Astronomical Society honours Eduardo Bañados with the Ludwig Biermann Award. Already in his PhD thesis he developed a method to discover high redshift quasars that resulted in almost doubling the number of the highest redshift quasars previously known. One of his greatest achievements is the discovery of the most distant quasar at a redshift equivalent to the age of the universe of only 700 million years. The study of high-redshift quasars is fundamental to the understanding of galaxy and structure formation in the Universe. Due to their enormous brightness, quasars probe the early universe and allow conclusions about the masses of their central black holes. After completing his doctorate, Eduardo Bañados had a postdoctoral position as a Carnegie-Princeton fellow, a prestigious joint fellowship between Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena California and Princeton University in New Jersey, and returned to the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy Heidelberg in 2019. The Ludwig Biermann Award by the German Astronomical Society is awarded in recognition of outstanding young astronomers. The award consists of financing a scientific stay at an institution of the recipient’s choice.
The German Astronomical Society awards the 2019 Bruno H. Bürgel prize for excellent popular representations of the latest results in the field of astronomy in German in the media in equal shares to Johannes V. Feitzinger and Dieter B. Herrmann. The lives of the award winners show several parallels: both have in similar ways decisively shaped the public perception of astronomy. As observatory directors and professors, in addition to their scientific research work, they have for decades presented inherently new astronomical results to the public. Their life’s work also beautifully reflects the East-West aspects of astronomy in Germany in general and in the astronomical society in particular: Dieter B. Herrmann had a formative influence on astronomy as the long-time director of the Archenhold Observatory and founding director of the Zeiss Großplanetarium Berlin, as a well-known moderator of a popular science television program, with regular science broadcasts on the radio and through many popular scientific books and numerous lectures. As a professor of astronomy at the Ruhr University Bochum and the long-time director of the Observatory and the Zeiss Planetarium Bochum, Johannes V. Feitzinger laid the foundation for very well-publicised public relations work. He published several books and articles on astronomy and was very actively involved in astronomical education. Through his commitment, he shaped many subsequent generations of students.
The 2019 Doctoral Thesis Award of the Astronomical Society goes to two outstanding young scientists: Tim Lichtenberg (ETH Zurich, now Oxford) and Oliver Friedrich (LMU Munich, now Cambridge). In his cross-disciplinary PhD thesis at the interface between geophysics and astronomy, Tim Lichtenberg used numerical modelling to address several fundamental long-standing unresolved problems of planetary formation. He provided a direct link between the star-forming birth environment of planetary systems and the compositional make-up and long-term evolution of rocky planets that form in them. The dissertation of Oliver Friedrich examined methods for measuring structural growth in the universe with the gravitational lensing effect. He improved techniques to estimate the statistical uncertainties in measurements of the cosmic density field and developed a theoretical model to study density fluctuations in the universe. This opened up a rich amount of information about the large-scale structure of the universe.
The AG promotes pupils as part of the Jugend forscht (Youth’s Research) Award in the Earth/space science category. At this year’s competition, Till Felix Weismann and Mohamad al Farhan from the Bischöfliches Gymnasium Josephinum in Hildesheim won with a study of the Scutum cloud, the brightest region of the Milky Way. On the basis of stellar data, they proved that the cloud is a spiral arm of the Milky Way and that the region is not obscured by dark clouds.