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Grote Reber Medal Winners
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2014 Winner: Professor Ron Ekers

Professor Ron Ekers

Prof. Ron Ekers (courtesy CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science).

The 2014 Grote Reber Gold Medal for innovative and significant contributions to radio astronomy will be awarded to Professor Ron Ekers.  Professor Ekers was the Foundation Director of CSIRO’s Australia Telescope national Facility at Narrabri, and is a former director of the Very Large Array in New Mexico, USA, operated by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO).  He is currently a CSIRO Fellow at the Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF), CSIRO Division of Astronomy and Space Science in Australia, and Adjunct Professor at Curtin University in Perth and the Raman Research Institute in Bangalore, India.  

Ekers is being recognized for his many pioneering scientific radio astronomy investigations, which extend over half a century.  Working with various colleagues, Ekers made the definitive determination of the radio galaxy luminosity function (the number of galaxies of different radio luminosity in a given volume of space), the precise measurement of the deflection of radio waves by the gravitational field of the sun, some of the first high-resolution images of the radio emission from the centre of the Galaxy, and the first observations of pulsars at high time resolution leading to the first determination of the Galactic magnetic field.  He had also studied the acceleration of the solar wind, gamma-ray bursts, and has investigated the distribution of neutral hydrogen in galaxies.  More recently he is leading a project to detect radio emission resulting from ultra high energy neutrino interactions with the Moon.

On the technical side, Ron played a key role in developing GIPSY, probably the first interactive computer language for analysing radio astronomy images, and he invented a technique to compensate for missing short spacings in radio arrays, which led to the current practice called mosaicking.  He led the drive to develop phased-array feeds, and starting in the mid-1990s he became the strongest force in developing and advocating support for the international Square Kilometre Array initiative.

"Over a career lasting nearly half a century Ron Ekers has worked in almost every area of radio astronomy. As a strong believer in international collaboration, he was the earliest advocate for the Square Kilometre Array, and perhaps, more than anyone else, he was responsible for building the current level of international support for the SKA", said Dr Ken Kellermann of the NRAO.

Ron Ekers graduated from the University of Adelaide in 1963 and received his PhD from the Australian National University in 1967 for research done under John Bolton at the famous Parkes Observatory.  In addition to the NRAO, Ron has worked at Caltech, the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy in Cambridge, and at the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands.  In 1988 he returned to Australia to become the Foundation Director of the Australia Telescope National Facility, and in 2003 he became an Australian Federation Fellow.  He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of London, a Foreign Member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Science and the American Philosophical Society, and from 2000 to 2006, he served as President of the International Astronomical Union.  Over the course of his outstanding career he has served on numerous advisory boards and committees, and has received many awards and prizes.  

"Ron is the complete internationalist and has contributed significantly to the major radio astronomy instruments in Europe, the US and Australia. Early in his career he recognised the importance of interferometers and aperture synthesis, technology that now dominates radio astronomy.  His ability to grasp and address highly significant problems, and his ability to lead and to mentor, have led to many scientific and technological advances across most of radio astronomy", said Dr David Jauncey, CASS Affiliate and ANU Visiting Fellow.

The 2014 Grote Reber Medal will be presented to Professor Ekers during the 31st General Assembly of the International Union of Radio Science (URSI) to be held in Beijing, China in August, 2014.  The Reber Medal was established by the Trustees of the Grote Reber Foundation to honour the achievements of Grote Reber and is administered by the Queen Victoria Museum in Launceston, Tasmania.

2013 Winner: Professor James Moran

Professor Jim Moran 

Prof. James Moran (courtesy Prof. James Moran)

Professor James Moran has been recognised for his pioneering work in the development and application of spectroscopic Very Long Baseline Interferometry.

Moran is the Donald H. Menzel Professor of Astrophysics at Harvard University and a Senior Radio Astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), where he has spent his entire career. He also holds a position as Concurrent Professor of Astronomy at Nanjing University and previously served as Chair of the Harvard Department of Astronomy and Associate Director of SAO.

Moran did his undergraduate work at the University of Notre Dame and received his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1968.  He has previously received the American Astronomical Society's Newton Lacy Pierce Prize, was the joint recipient of the 1971 Rumford Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Science, and was the 1996 National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) Jansky Lecturer.  He is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  He is a coauthor of a widely used reference book, Interferometry and Synthesis in Radio Astronomy.

Moran's interest in radio astronomy began while he was in high school, where he used his experience as an amateur radio operator to build a small radio telescope at 400 MHz to detect the Sun.  He later participated in one of the earliest summer programs at NRAO in 1962, which permanently hooked him on radio astronomy as a career.

Moran also played a key role in the design and application of the NRAO Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) for spectroscopic observations. In 1994, he led an international group of collaborators and students to use the VLBA to image the masers in the Seyfert galaxy NGC4258, which convincingly demonstrated that the spots trace a nearly Keplerian accretion disk around a supermassive black hole.

This work provided definitive and direct evidence for the existence of supermassive black holes and the first direct geometric distance estimate to a galaxy independent of the traditional multi-step extragalactic distance ladder.

The VLBA estimate of the distance to NGC4258 of 7.20.5 megaparsecs was the most precise extragalactic distance measurement at that time, and has played an important role in the calibration of the Cepheid distance scale based on observations of Cepheid variables in NGC4258.

Accurate knowledge of extragalactic distances is a key factor in establishing the equation of state of dark matter as well as being an essential prerequisite for the determination of the age, energy density, geometry, and the evolution of the Universe.  Moran was also the director of the Submillimeter Array (SMA) on Mauna Kea during its construction.  Among other projects, he used the SMA to study the accretion flow in the black hole in the center of our galaxy, known as Sgr A*.

The 2013 Grote Reber Medal was awarded to Professor Moran on 8 July 2013 in Turku, Finland, during the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science.

2012 Winner: Professor Nicolay Kardashev

He is also well known for his pioneering work on “super civilisations”, which has become the basis for observational SETI programs over the past half century. Kardashev described how civilisations might progress to first harness the power from their planet (Type I), their sun (Type II), and ultimately their galaxy (Type III) to power radio transmitters for interstellar communications. More than thirty years ago Kardashev proposed placing a radio telescope in space to form an interferometer system together with ground based radio telescopes (the use of two or more radio telescopes spaced widely apart improves the resolution, or 'sharpness' of the radio image). Political and technical conditions in the USSR resulted in very slow progress, which was further constrained by the fall of the USSR and the resulting difficult financial situation for Russian scientists. With the improved conditions of the past decade, Kardashev was able to raise the project to the highest priority in  Russian space astrophysics. In July of this year Radio Astron was launched into an orbit extending up to 350,000 km from the Earth; this will give an unprecedented angular resolution as small as 10 microarcseconds. This will be by far the best resolution ever achieved in astronomy. 

"His contributions to the theory of radio spectroscopy, radio galaxies, cosmology, and the search for extra terrestrial intelligence (SETI) have defined the progress in these fields for nearly half a century," said Ken Kellermann of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in the USA. David Jauncey of the CSIRO Division of Astronomy and Space Science in Australia commented that "Professor Kardashev's initiative with the launching of Radio Astron effectively opens a new window in high resolution astronomy.”

Nicolay Kardashev has shown much the same disregard for conventional wisdom in theoretical astrophysics as Grote Reber did for experimental work. It is fitting that Kardashev's RadioAstron spacecraft carries a plaque provided by the Grote Reber Foundation in memory of Grote Reber, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday on 22 December 2011.

2011 Winner: Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell (Courtesy of the University of Bath)
Professor Bell Burnell is best known for her part, while working towards her PhD as student Jocelyn Bell in 1967, in the discovery of the type of star known as a Pulsar. The discovery was made when she was using a radio telescope near Cambridge in England that had been built for her study of quasars by way of a phenomenon known as interplanetary scintillation. One day,Bellwas examining the output of the radio telescope when she noticed what she called some 'scruff' on the recordings, which was quite curious. By late November 1967, Bellfound that one of these pieces of 'scruff', when examined in more detail, was a series of radio pulses 1.3 seconds  apart. Bellapproached Antony Hewish, her PhD supervisor, who initially felt that such a signal had to be artificial. Could it be simply some interference from Earth, or hadBelldiscovered the first signals from an alien civilisation? When the signals were confirmed by another observatory, local interference was clearly out of the question, and specialised measurements showed that the source was well outside our Solar System, but inside our Milky Way Galaxy. 

When Bell spotted three more such emissions over the following two months, a seminar was organised to announce the discovery - although it was not of alien origin. Professor Fred Hoyle, who attended the seminar, stated right from the outset that he felt that they must come about as the result of a supernova explosion. It was becoming quite clear that they were natural phenomena, and were being recognised for what they really were.  Pulsars are neutron stars which, as their name suggests, are made up of neutrons ¾ subatomic particles that have no charge. Neutron stars are very dense, meaning that there is a great deal of mass in a given volume of star. They spin very rapidly, and emit radiation that sweeps across space as they rotate, rather like a lighthouse emits a moving beam of light. These are the radio pulses that Bell observed. Hewish (Bell's supervisor) and Martin Ryle were awarded a Nobel Prize - Hewish for the pulsar discovery and Ryle for his work on a technique known as aperture synthesis. Bell's exclusion from the Nobel Prize has been quite controversial.

After completing her PhD in 1969, Bell went on to hold many different and important posts, including at the University of Southampton, working on gamma ray astronomy; University College London, where she was involved in x-ray astronomy; the Royal Observatory Edinburgh, working on infrared astronomy and running the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii; and the University of Bath, where she spent three years as Dean of Science. Professor Bell Burnell has recently completed a two-year term as President of the Institute of Physics (The UK and Ireland's main body of professional physicists). She has been presented with many awards, including the Michelson Medal by the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, the Oppenheimer Prize, the Tinsley Prize, and the Herschel Medal from the Royal Astronomical Society (UK). Among other major awards, she was made a CBE in 1999 and a DBE in 2007. Professor Bell Burnell will be presented with the Grote Reber Medal at the 2011 conference of the International Union of Radio Science (URSI) in Istanbul in August.

2010 Winner: Dr Alan Rogers
Rogers is best known for his contributions over many decades to the techniques of very long baseline interferometry. More recently, he developed an innovative radio array which he successfully used to detect the 327 MHz line of interstellar deuterium, capping a 40-year quest for this important astrophysical atomic gas. Currently, Rogers is searching for the low frequency signature characteristic of the cosmic epoch of reionization using a digital spectrometer and a compact broadband dipole. He was also the leader of a program to apply radio astronomy techniques to locate emergency calls from mobile telephones.

'Alan Rogers not only changed the course of radio astronomy but, unlike most research scientists, he devoted considerable time and his unique skills to making life a bit safer for all of us', said Dr Ken Kellermann of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in the USA. Rogers is currently running a program to monitor atmospheric ozone using inexpensive consumer satellite TV low noise amplifiers and dishes. 'Alan Rogers has made fundamental contributions to the technology of radio astronomy ever since the earliest days of VLBI back in the 1960s", said Dr David Jauncey of the Australia Telescope National Facility in Australia. "His work on deuterium will significantly influence future astronomy for many years in the lead-up to the Square Kilometre Array', Jauncey added.

The 2010 Reber Medal will be presented to Alan Rogers in July 2010 in Hobart,Tasmania at the annual meeting of the Astronomical Society of Australia. The Reber Medal was established by the Trustees of the Grote Reber Foundation to honor the achievements of Grote Reber and is administered by the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston,Tasmania.

2009 Winner: Dr Barry Clark
The 2009 Grote Reber Gold Medal for lifetime innovative contributions to radio astronomy has been awarded to Dr Barry Clark, who is an Emeritus Scientist at the U.S. National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Socorro, New Mexico. Clark is being honoured for his many pioneering developments to radio interferometry and synthesis imaging, over a career spanning more than half a century.

Barry Clark received his BS and PhD degrees in astronomy from Caltech and MIT in 1959 and 1964 respectively. His scientific career has extended over a full half a century starting with his research on the solar corona and the Galactic magnetic field while still an undergraduate student at Caltech. As a graduate student, Clark used the Caltech radio interferometer to study Galactic atomic hydrogen clouds, and suggested that interstellar hydrogen is found in two distinct temperature phases - thus leading to our current understanding of the multiple phases of the interstellar medium.

“Throughout his career he tackled only the difficult problems, leaving the easy ones for the rest of us”, said Dr Ken Kellermann of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in the US.

After receiving his PhD in 1964 Barry went to NRAO where he has remained until the present. Soon after he arrived at NRAO, he led the development of the world's first digital recording, software correlator Very Long Baseline Interferometer system and the subsequent enhancements to its sensitivity. He is probably best known, however, as the intellectual power behind the Very Large Array, the most powerful radio telescope system ever built. Later, he led the design of the Very Long Baseline Array, an array of ten radio telescopes spread across theUSwhich provided unprecedented angular resolution.

"Barry was a man of few words, but these seven were most certainly worth listening to!" said Dr David Jauncey of the Australia Telescope National Facility in Australia.

The 2009 Reber Medal will be presented to Barry Clark on August 5 at the triennial meeting of the International Astronomical Union in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

2008 Winner: Dr Sander Weinreb
The 2008 Grote Reber Medal for lifetime innovative contributions to radio astronomy has been awarded to Dr Sander Weinreb of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology. Dr Weinreb is being honoured for his pioneering developments of novel techniques and instrumentation over nearly half a century which have helped to define modern radio astronomy. 'Sandy Weinreb's contributions to radio astronomy technology are to be found throughout the radio observatories of the world and have set the foundation for so many amazing astronomical discoveries', said Dr Ken Kellermann of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in the USA.

Weinreb received his PhD degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1963. While he was still a graduate student at MIT, he developed the world's first digital autocorrelation spectrometer which he then used to place a new upper limit to the Galactic deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio. With Barrett, Meeks, and Henry, he detected the hydroxyl molecule (OH); this was the first radio observation of an interstellar molecule. His autocorrelation spectrometer technique is now in use at virtually every major radio observatory throughout the world and has been crucial in the subsequent explosive growth of interstellar molecular spectroscopy.

In 1965 Weinreb went to the U.S. National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Green Bank, West Virginia where he became Head of the Electronics Division and later Assistant Director of NRAO. During his 23 years at NRAO, he pioneered the use of low-noise, cryogenically cooled solid state amplifiers which greatly enhanced the sensitivity of radio telescopes. He was the architect for the electronic systems design for the NRAO Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico and led the group which developed the novel receivers and the data transmission, acquisition, and monitor and control systems for the VLA.

Subsequently, Weinreb worked firstly at Lockheed Martin Laboratories and then at the University of Massachusetts where he developed various millimetre wave devices. He has also been a Visiting Professor at the University of Virginia. Most recently he has been a Faculty Associate at Caltech and a Principal Scientist at JPL where he has continued his work on low noise amplifier devices. He played a leading role in the electronics design for a new Deep Space Network (DSN) space tracking array, and he has been active in developing wideband feeds and front ends as well as investigating cost effective designs for modest size antennas, all of which will be important for the next generation of radio telescopes such the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). In addition he has been working with the Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope (GAVRT) program to develop a 34-metre radio telescope at Goldstone for use with schools around the globe. 'For nearly five decades Sandy's innovative contributions to radio astronomy have paved the way for an amazing array of new and exciting discoveries about the nature and evolution of the Universe', said Dr David Jauncey of the Australia Telescope National Facility in Australia.

The 2008 Reber Medal will be presented to Dr Weinreb at the International Radio Science Union (URSI) radio astronomy commission meeting to be held on 13 August 2008 in Chicago.

2007 Winner: Professor Govind Swarup
The 2007 Grote Reber Medal for lifetime, innovative achievement in radio astronomy was awarded to Professor Govind Swarup of the National Centre of Radio Astrophysics at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in India. 
Professor Swarup has had a long and productive career and remains as dynamic and energetic as ever. 

"Professor Swarup continues to produce remarkably innovative concepts and designs for new radio telescopes that address some of the most important scientific problems in astronomy; at the moment he is working on designs for the next generation world radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array," said Dr David Jauncey of the Australia Telescope National Facility in Australia. 

India entered radio astronomy research with the construction of a large, steerable radio telescope at Ootacamund, in the Nilgiri Hills of South Indiawhich came to be known as "The Ooty Telescope". The telescope was designed and built by Professor Swarup. The innovative 530m x 30m Ooty radio telescope commenced operation in 1970.

The telescope was designed to use the technique of lunar occultations, in which the Moon passes in front of celestial objects, temporarily blocking them from view. This enabled the Ooty radio telescope to be used to determine the angular structure and precise position of many faint radio sources with a precision and angular resolution not achievable by any telescope at that time. One of the most successful programmes was the determination of the angular structure and precise position of many distant radio galaxies and quasars, and the application of these results to cosmology.

Professor Swarup's most significant contribution to radio astronomy has been through the major and innovative radio telescopes whose design and construction he has spearheaded in India. More recently, he has achieved considerable success and international recognition with the design and construction of the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), near Pune, India, completed in 1997. The GMRT consists of 30 fully steerable parabolic dishes each of 45m diameter, spread over distances of up to 25 km. GMRT is one of the most challenging experimental programs in basic sciences undertaken by Indian scientists and engineers. 

At the time of construction, Professor Swarup said "GMRT is a marriage of the world's two big radio telescopes: the Very Large Array in New Mexico, and Areciboin Puerto Rico¾ with the advantages of both". It is the largest telescope in the world for its wavelength range, and is used by astronomers from all over the world. The GMRT leads the world in the search for high-redshifted hydrogen and is actively involved in the search for the epoch of reionisation. As such it is an exciting test-bed for the future radio telescope called the Square Kilometre Array.

By designing and building such distinctive and innovative telescopes Professor Swarup has shown immense determination and farsightedness. 

"He is always coming up with new ideas 10 or 20 years ahead of the rest of us," said Ken Kellermann of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in the USA. 

The 2007 Grote Reber Medal was presented at a radio astronomy conference at Jodrell Bank, in the United Kingdom.

2006 Winner: Bernard Yarnton Mills
The Grote Reber Medal for 2006 was awarded to Bernard Yarnton Mills, Professor Emeritus at Sydney University. The Grote Reber Medal is awarded annually for innovative lifetime contributions to radio astronomy, and commemorates the pioneering work of Grote Reber, the first radio astronomer. The Medal is administered by the Queen Victoria Museum in Launceston, Tasmania, Australia in cooperation with the University of Tasmania, the Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF) in Australia and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in the USA.

The award of the Grote Reber Medal is made possible through funds provided by the Grote Reber Foundation.   

"It is very pleasing to see the groundbreaking work of the pioneering Australian radio astronomers being recognised at this level", said Dr David Jauncey of the Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF). 

Professor Mills was recognised for his numerous innovative and pioneering contributions to radio astronomy. These include the development of the cross-type telescope, subsequently known as the "Mills Cross", at Fleurs, west of Sydney, in 1953. With this instrument he and his colleagues undertook the first detailed radio survey of the southern sky, which had a major impact in establishing Australia as a leader in the then new science of radio astronomy. This first cross spawned further copies ¾ two in Australia, one in the USA, and a further one in Italy. 

After moving to Sydney University from CSIRO in 1960, Mills undertook the construction of the 408 MHz one-mile Molonglo Cross. As well as surveying the radio sky, this telescope proved to be one of the most successful pulsar discovery telescopes. Since then the telescope has been upgraded to operate as a synthesis radio telescope operating at 843 MHz and has been most successful in sensitively surveying the southern sky, the Magellanic Clouds and the southern Galactic plane at this frequency. 

Bernard Mills, after his retirement in 1985, continues to contemplate fundamental issues of astrophysics. 

The 2006 Medal was presented at a ceremony in August 2006 during the International Astronomical Union General Assembly in Prague,Czech Republic.

2005 Winner: William C. Erickson
The 2005 Grote Reber Medal was awarded to William C. Erickson, Professor Emeritus at the University of Maryland and Honorary Research Associate at the University of Tasmania.  

"We had many excellent nominations for the inaugural Grote Reber Medal, but Bill Erickson was the unanimous choice", said Dr David Jauncey of the Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF) in Australia. 

"I think that Grote Reber would be very pleased to see Bill Erickson, a long-time friend, as the inaugural Reber Medallist", Jauncey added. 

Professor Erickson was recognised for his innovative contributions to radio astronomy, especially for his many novel techniques which have been the forerunner of the new generation of metre-wavelength radio telescopes.  Currently he operates his own private radio observatory on Bruny Island in Tasmania. Earlier in his career Erickson studied the turbulence in the solar corona, investigated the nature of fast millisecond pulsars and made one of the first detections of very high Rydberg state atoms in the cold interstellar medium. More recently, he has been leading a group of his former students doing sub-arcminute-resolution imaging at meter wavelength. 

Professor Erickson was educated at the University of Minnesota and received his PhD degree in 1956. Following appointments at St. Thomas College, Minnesota, the University of Minnesota, the Carnegie Institute and the Convair Corporation, Erickson spent a year in Leiden, in the Netherlands, as the leader of the group developing the Benelux Cross Radio Telescope. While at the University of Maryland from 1963 to 1988, Erickson developed a succession of innovative low frequency radio telescopes at Clark Lake in the Anza-Borrego Desert in California. Through his students he has left a legacy of skilled scientists who are developing the new generation of metre wavelength radio telescopes. 

The 2005 Grote Reber Medal was presented at a ceremony in December 2005 during an international conference on radio astronomy at the University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania.


 

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