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Owen Receives Kuiper Prize and NASA Medal

Tobias Owen

On October 6, IfA faculty member Tobias Owen was awarded the 2009 Gerard P. Kuiper Prize by the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society to recognize and honor his outstanding contributions to planetary science. He also received the NASA Medal for Exceptional Public Service in June.

Owen has been at IfA for 19 years. He has been involved in many of NASA's major planetary missions over the past 40 years, including the ongoing Cassini-Huygens mission to the Saturn system. Owen was the American lead on a joint ESA-NASA team that developed this international mission and brought it to a new start in 1989. He is currently analyzing results from this remarkably successful Saturn Orbiter (Cassini) plus the Titan probe (Huygens). Owen's scientific achievements include the discovery of the rings of Jupiter and noble (inert) gases and heavy water on Mars, deducing the early existence of a new class of solar system building blocks called "solar composition icy planetesimals," and establishing the importance of deuterium (heavy hydrogen) and other isotopes for studying the history and formation mechanisms of our solar system.

Owen is a coauthor of two undergraduate textbooks, The Planetary System and The Search for Life in the Universe, both now in their third editions. He is also one of the editors of First Steps in the Origin of Life in the Universe, a compilation of articles for more advanced students, and Solar System History from Isotopic Signatures of Volatile Elements, a collection of scientific papers. He has also authored over 300 scientific articles.