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Astronomer awarded prestigious RAS medal


13 January 2012

In the annual meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) on January 13, it was announced by the President of the RAS, R. L. Davies, that Joss Bland-Hawthorn is to receive the 2012 Jackson Gwilt medal. This follows in the wake of his election as Fellow of the Optical Society of America last month, one of only a handful of astronomers to receive this distinction.

Joss Bland-Hawthorn is a Federation Fellow in the School of Physics. He is a member of the Sydney Institute for Astronomy and co-founder of the Institute of Photonics and Optical Science.

Professor Joss Bland-Hawthorn, from the School of Physics, has been named as the winner of the 2012 Jackson-Gwilt Medal awarded by the Royal Astronomical Society. He is only the third Australian to win the medal in its 115 year history.
Professor Joss Bland-Hawthorn, from the School of Physics, has been named as the winner of the 2012 Jackson-Gwilt Medal awarded by the Royal Astronomical Society. He is only the third Australian to win the medal in its 115 year history.

The Jackson-Gwilt Medal is one of four major awards offered by the RAS. It has been awarded roughly every two years since 1897 for the invention, improvement or development of astronomical instrumentation or techniques, and for achievement in observational astronomy. The medal is named after Hannah Jackson née Gwilt.

Over the past twenty years, Bland-Hawthorn has developed revolutionary technologies for space and ground based astronomy and these have led to new directions in astronomy and astrophysics. His most recent developments have concentrated on new instruments which make use of photonic materials and devices. This has come to be known as astrophotonics, a field that lies at the interface of astronomy and photonics, a discipline that was featured in the Feb 2009 issue of Optics Express. Some of the devices have their origins in the telecommunications industry, but other devices (e.g. photonic lanterns) are unique to astrophotonics.

In 2011 alone, there were no fewer than four revolutionary astrophotonic instruments (GNOSIS, SAMI, Dragonfly, PIMMS) commissioned at the Anglo-Australian Telescope. All of these concepts will undergo more extensive development in the next few years. Moreover, astrophotonic technologies are now being explored in the context of space instrumentation by a collaboration involving the School of Physics and the School of Engineering.

Bland-Hawthorn is not the only Australian to receive this award. In 1905, Hawkesbury astronomer John Tebbut became only the third person to have received the award after two Americans were presented with the medal in 1897 and 1902. In 1986, the award was presented to David Malin for his lifetime contributions in wide-field photographic astronomy.

The medal is to be awarded by the President of the RAS at the National Astronomical Meeting in Manchester on March 28.


Contact: John O'Byrne

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