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Prestigious Astronomy Awards

The Newton Lacy Pierce Prize is one of the two major awards given annually by the American Astronomical Society to an astronomer under the age of 36.

The SIRTF Fellowship, along with the Hubble and Chandra Fellowships, are widely considered to be among the most prestigious of NASA-supported fellowships for astronomers at an early stage in their careers.


Barger Wins Pierce Prize

The recipient of the 2002 Pierce Prize of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) is Dr. Amy J. Barger, visiting adjunct astronomer in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Hawaii. The Pierce Prize is given annually to an astronomer under the age of 35 for outstanding achievement in observational astronomical research over the past five years. This prestigious prize is the second national award Dr. Barger has received in the past two years. She was the recipient of the 2001 Annie Jump Cannon Award, administered jointly by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) in cooperation with the AAS. The Cannon Prize is given annually to the woman whose astronomical research has been judged to be of outstanding merit. Much of the research for which Dr. Barger has been cited was done while she was a resident postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Astronomy (IfA) from 1997 to 2000.

Fernandez Is SIRTF Fellow

Dr. Yanga R. "Yan" Fernandez, currently an IfA postdoctoral fellow, has received a SIRTF Fellow-ship. He is one of only three to receive this prestigious award in its inaugural year. SIRTF, the Space InfraRed Telescope Facility, is the final element in NASA's Great Observatories Program, which also includes the Hubble Space Telescope launched in 1990, the Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory (1991), and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory (1999).

Working with Dr. David Jewitt and Dr. Karen Meech, Dr. Fernandez has focused on measuring the sizes and albedos (reflective power) of small solar system bodies such as comets and asteroids. Using thermal imaging cameras on the Keck telescope, he discovered a relation between albedo and the dynamical character of Near Earth Objects (NEOs). Specifically, he found that NEOs with cometlike orbits also possess cometlike albedos (they are very black). This is the first compelling evidence that the NEOs include a significant population of dead comets. Previously, astronomers had no way to distinguish a dead comet nucleus from a normal, rocky asteroid.