AAS Division For Planetary Sciences Announces 2014 Prize Winners

02 July 2014

** Contact details appear below. **

The Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) is pleased to announce its 2014 prize winners.

Gerard P. Kuiper Prize for outstanding contributions to the field of planetary science: Dr. Peter Gierasch made outstanding contributions to our understanding of planetary atmospheres during the 49 years of his professional career. His impact on the study of planetary atmospheres is exceptional, with some of his early papers still being frequently cited today, decades after their publication. His papers on the Martian thermal and dynamical structure (1968), zonal-mean properties of Jupiter (1986), and Venus’s atmospheric rotation (1975) were groundbreaking and remain classics in the field. Long before the greenhouse effect and global warming became household terms, Peter worked these puzzles for Mars. Dr. Gierasch is a professor of astronomy at Cornell University and the co-founder of Cornell’s Center for Radiophysics and Space Research, which he led for over a decade. He received his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1962 and 1968, respectively. He has served on numerous planetary missions, including Viking, Pioneer, Voyager, Galileo, and Cassini.

Harold C. Urey Prize for outstanding achievement in planetary research by a young scientist: Dr. Matija Cuk’s broad-ranging research is significantly contributing to unraveling the origin of the solar system’s current structure. He has applied his skills across a remarkably broad range of topics: the origin and evolution of the Moon, binary asteroids and KBOs, as well as tidal evolution, orbital stability, rotational history and cratering of these bodies. Dr. Cuk devised and convincingly demonstrated the BYORP (binary Yarkovsky-O’Keefe-Radzievskii-Paddack) mechanism, in which thermal radiation forces affect the orbital and rotational histories of binary asteroids. Dr. Cuk’s findings represent some of the most significant contributions to the field. Dr. Cuk, currently a researcher at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, obtained his bachelor’s degree from University of Belgrade, Serbia. He received his master’s degree and Ph.D. from Cornell University and worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University.

Harold Masursky Award for outstanding service to planetary science and exploration: Dr. Athena Coustenis has an impressive scientific research career and has made major contributions to planetary science in the spirit of the Harold Masursky award. More than any other member of our community, Dr. Coustenis contributed to promoting and facilitating international collaboration in planetary science. Athena has played a major role in organizing the dissemination of scientific results at international conferences, including those of the European Geophysical Union, the International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences, the Asia Oceania Geosciences Society, the DPS/AAS, the European Planetary Science Congress, as well as the AGU Goldschmidt conferences and the International Planetary Probe workshops. She has rendered outstanding service to the international planetary science community through a combination of managerial, leadership, programmatic, and public service activities. Dr. Coustenis is currently Director of Research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), France, and an astrophysicist with the Laboratoire d’Etudes Spatiales et d’Instrumentation en Astrophysique (LESIA) of Paris Observatory, France.

Carl Sagan Medal for outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public: Br. Guy Consolmagno has a decades-long track record of communicating planetary science to the public while maintaining an active science career. In addition, he occupies a unique position within our profession as a credible spokesperson for scientific honesty within the context of religious belief. Br. Guy uses multiple media to reach his audience. He has authored or edited six books, with “Turn Left at Orion” in its fourth edition of publication. This book alone has had an enormous impact on the amateur astronomy community, engendering public support for astronomy. In addition to writing books, he is a dynamic popular speaker, giving 40 to 50 public lectures every year across both Europe and the United States, reaching thousands of people. He regularly gives interviews on BBC radio shows on planetary science topics and hosted his own BBC radio show discussing the origins of the universe (“A Brief History of the End of Everything”). These appearances address both pure science subjects and science-with-religion subjects. As a Jesuit Brother, Guy has become the voice of the juxtaposition of planetary science and astronomy with Christian belief, a rational spokesperson who can convey exceptionally well how religion and science can co-exist for believers.

Jonathan Eberhart Planetary Sciences Journalism Award to recognize and stimulate distinguished popular writing on planetary sciences: James Oberg is a science journalist, space consultant, and retired “rocket scientist” who spent the first 22 years of his career as an engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where he specialized in space shuttle operations and orbital rendezvous. Mr. Oberg has authored some two-dozen books about all aspects of space flight for both the astronomy-interested layman and NASA’s training program and has written more than 1,000 magazine and newspaper articles. His work has appeared in Astronomy, The Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, OMNI, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, and other publications. In addition, James has served as the NBC News space consultant for a decade. He is considered an expert on the Russian space program and U.S. space policy. In his winning entry, “Torrid Mercury’s Icy Poles,” in Astronomy magazine’s December 2013 issue, James expertly explores the history of the search for the innermost planet’s water ice and what the MESSENGER spacecraft, launched in 2004, is revealing. The saga of water ice hiding in the shadows on Mercury ranks among the most fascinating chapters in the story of the solar system’s birth and evolution.

The 2014 DPS prizes will be presented at the 46th annual DPS meeting in Tucson, Arizona, 9-14 November 2014 [http://aas.org/meetings/dps46].

Dr. Vishnu Reddy
DPS Press Officer
+1 808-342-8932

Dr. Heidi Hammel
DPS Chair
+1 202-483-2101

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