Birmingham astronomers honoured in Royal Astronomical Society bicentenary awards

RAS Medals 2020_720
Professor Yvonne Elsworth and Dr Amaury Triaud, RAS Award recipients 2020

Two leading astrophysicists at the University of Birmingham are to be recognised in the Royal Astronomical Society’s prestigious 2020 Awards.

Professor Yvonne Elsworth, a researcher in the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, is recognised with the Society’s Gold Medal – its highest award – for her work in the field of helioseismology, the study of our Sun using its oscillations.

Also recognised in the 2020 Awards is Dr Amaury Triaud, a Birmingham Fellow in the School of Physics and Astronomy. Dr Triaud will receive the RAS Fowler Award, for Early Achievement in Astronomy.

The Society's Gold Medal can be awarded for any reason but usually recognises lifetime achievement. Past winners include Albert Einstein, Edwin Hubble, Arthur Eddington and Stephen Hawking. It was first awarded in 1824; since 1964 two have been awarded each year: one for astronomy, and one for geophysics.

Professor Elsworth said: “It is an honour and a delight to be awarded an RAS gold medal. Birmingham pioneered the study of the Sun through helioseismology because of the inventiveness of Professor George Isaak.  Subsequently I have been able to lead the solar and stellar group as it illuminated the conditions in the solar interior. None of this would be possible without the input over many years from my brilliant team.”

A pioneer in solar physics, Professor Elsworth’s outstanding achievements in helioseismology have revealed fundamental insights into the structure and dynamics of the solar interior and core. Her work enabled a deeper understanding of our own Sun, and by applying helioseismology to other stars, to stellar structure and evolution in general.

Throughout her distinguished career, Professor Elsworth has played a prominent role in shaping policy and one lasting influence of her work is the improved gender balance in astronomy. The Gold Medal recognises her achievements in science, and the scientific community, across a long and distinguished career.

The Fowler Award is given to researchers for particularly noteworthy contributions to Astronomy and Geophysics at an early stage of their research career. Dr Amaury Triaud has pioneered observational studies into the dynamical origins of gas-giant planets in close orbits about their host stars. Dr Triaud carried out the first comprehensive survey of spin-orbit misalignments in these “hot-Jupiter” systems, revealing two likely evolutionary pathways to their present orbits.

Dr Triaud said: “I am deeply honoured by this award from the RAS. It is a recognition of the relevance of exoplanet research within Astronomy, and a recognition not just of my work, but also of all the efforts that my collaborators within the Wide Angle Search for Planets collaboration have produced across the years

Professor Mike Cruise, President of the Royal Astronomical Society, said: “The RAS awards recognise the achievements of an extraordinarily talented group of people from the UK and across the globe. In this special bicentenary year, we’re continuing our longstanding tradition of honouring the the very best researchers, those who rise to the challenge of engaging the wider public with our science, and those who make our science possible with their behind the scenes service. Congratulations to all the winners!”

The announcements were made at the Ordinary Meeting of the society held on Friday 10 January. The winners will be invited to collect their awards at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting at the University of Bath in July. 

Notes for editors

  • For further information please contact Beck Lockwood, Press Office, University of Birmingham, tel 0121 414 2772.
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.
  • The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The RAS organizes scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognizes outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and internationally. Its more than 4,400 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.

    In 2020 the RAS is 200 years old. The Society is celebrating its bicentennial anniversary with a series of events around the UK, including public lectures, exhibitions, an organ recital, a pop-up planetarium, and the culmination of the RAS 200: Sky & Earth project.