DPS 2011 Planetary Science Prize Winners Announced

DPS-(ENEWSPF)- The Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) is pleased to announce its 2011 prize winners:

Gerard P. Kuiper Prize for outstanding contributions to the field of planetary science: William Ward, Southwest Research Institute. Many dynamical processes that are now cornerstones of current theories of how planets form and evolve were originally proposed and evaluated by Bill Ward. His findings have often been far ahead of the thinking in the field at the time of their publication. For example, in 1976, his and A. G. W. Cameron’s proposal that the Moon formed when Earth collided with a Mars-size planet seemed far-fetched to many, as did Ward’s 1986 suggestion that large planets would migrate inward over great distances due to interactions with a gas disk. Today these and other of Ward’s visionary ideas form the foundation for a significant portion of current work in planetary formation and dynamics.

Harold C. Urey Prize for outstanding achievement in planetary research by a young scientist: Eric B. Ford, University of Florida. Ford displays both a complete mastery of theoretical tools and a deep technical understanding of all observational aspects, enabling him to make theoretical predictions with immediate impact for observers. His pioneering work has demonstrated that strong gravitational scattering among extrasolar planets during their late stages of formation is a key process in establishing their final orbital configuration. In particular, he has shown that the large orbital eccentricities of extrasolar planets, unlike the nearly circular orbits of the planets in our solar system, likely resulted from scattering.

Harold Masursky Award for outstanding service to planetary science and exploration: Benton C. Clark III, Space Science Institute. Ben Clark has been an active participant in at least 10 planetary missions, multiple Earth-orbiting missions, and a contributor to the early development of many more. His instruments and analysis redefined our understanding of Martian surface composition, highlighting the role of salts and the possible implications for astrobiology. He was a staunch advocate for science while working on virtually every planetary science spacecraft ever built at Martin Marietta / Lockheed Martin. This is not a task that has high visibility from the outside, but anyone who has been an instrument or mission principal investigator can tell you that it’s an extraordinarily important one. The scientific quality of many NASA planetary missions is due in large part to Clark’s behind-the-scenes efforts.

Carl Sagan Medal for outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public: James Bell, Arizona State University. As a dynamic and popular speaker and as an author, Bell has been an outstanding spokesperson for the beauty and value of planetary science to people around the world. His heavy involvement in many NASA missions gives him the credibility and first-hand experience to convey how we humans explore the heavens. Jim’s beautiful pictorial books, such as “Postcards from Mars,” bring exploration to the living rooms of many households. He has participated in many teachers’ workshops and also been a speaker for the Solar System Ambassadors Program. Jim’s involvement with The Planetary Society and other outreach organizations and programs has extended his influence with the public, not just in the United States, but around the world.

Jonathan Eberhart Planetary Sciences Journalism Award to recognize and stimulate distinguished popular writing on planetary sciences: Emily Lakdawalla, The Planetary Society. Emily is a new media journalist who blogs every day about new discoveries and research in planetary sciences. Through her Planetary Society blog, Emily serves as an ambassador for planetary science working tirelessly to bring important issues and results from our community to a broader audience. The Eberhart Award honors her 2009 blog posting entitled “The Phoebe Ring.” This engaging and stimulating article sheds light on the discovery by astronomers using the Spitzer Space Telescope of a previously unseen ring around Saturn that shares the same orbit as its moon Phoebe.

The 2011 DPS prizes will be presented at the joint meeting of the DPS and the European Planetary Science Conference in Nantes, France, 3-7 October 2011. http://meetings.copernicus.org/epsc-dps2011/

The DPS (http://dps.aas.org/) was formed in 1968 as a sub-organization within the AAS devoted to solar system research. Today it is the largest special interest Division of the AAS.