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Queen’s researchers honoured by Royal Astronomical Society

Two Queen’s University Belfast researchers are set to receive prestigious awards from the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS).

David Jess

Professor Stephen Smartt and Dr David Jess have been recognised for their significant achievement in the fields of astronomy and geophysics.

The announcements were made at the Ordinary Meeting of the Society held on Friday 12 January 2018 and the winners will receive their awards at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science in Liverpool in April.

Professor Stephen Smartt will be awarded the 2018 George Darwin Lecture in Astronomy. As one of the global leaders in the field of supernovae, astrophysical transients and time domain sky surveys, Professor Smartt has published over 230 refereed papers, with more than 12,000 citations.

Professor Smartt and his team have led the way in the new field of surveying the transient Universe and understanding the diversity in stellar explosions. He has shown that a new class of the most luminous supernovae can be explained by the theory of magnetic neutron stars.

He is also a leader in the search for electromagnetic counterparts of gravitational waves and recently led a paper identifying the first electromagnetic counterpart to a gravitational wave source, showing that it was consistent with a "kilonova" event.

Dr David Jess is to receive the Fowler Award for Geophysics of the RAS. An early-career researcher at Queen's who is a leading international expert in solar physics, he has dramatically improved the international understanding of wave processes occurring within the Sun’s atmosphere. This has been achieved through his design, construction and implementation of state-of-the-art high-cadence imaging instrumentation to allow such studies to be undertaken, followed by the analysis and interpretation of cutting-edge datasets.

He has also made substantial contributions to the study of solar flare characteristics, solar feature tracking, solar EUV spectroscopy and cool-star variability. Dr Jess has already made a major impact on international solar physics research and his achievements and dedication have been recognised by a number of awards and prizes.

The RAS awards more than 20 other medals, awards, lectures and honorary fellowships.

Professor John Zarnecki, President of the Royal Astronomical Society, said:

"It is an enormous pleasure to congratulate the 2018 cohort of winners of our awards and medals. Over nearly two centuries, the Society has recognised the very best men and women in astronomy, space science and geophysics, in the UK and around the world, and this year is no exception.

"The achievements of all of them are incredibly impressive, and I am delighted to see their work recognised in this way."