Space scientist receives prestigious award from Royal Astronomical Society

Professor Emma Bunce (pictured) from our Department of Physics and Astronomy has received a prestigious award from the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) for her outstanding research into the physics of the gas giant planet magnetospheres of Jupiter and Saturn.

Professor Bunce has received the Chapman Medal from the RAS for her research which has helped to develop our understanding of the physical properties of electric current systems flowing in the magnetospheres of the gas giant planets, and their connection with the polar auroras in their upper atmospheres.

Professor Bunce was the first to analyse simultaneous observations of Saturn’s UV auroras by the Hubble Space Telescope and measurements of electric currents in the high-latitude magnetosphere measured by the Cassini spacecraft. This work clearly established a connection between upward-directed magnetic field-aligned currents flowing near the boundary of open and closed field lines and the auroral oval, as proposed in Leicester’s earlier modelling work.

Planetary scientists from our University have played key roles in the Cassini mission since the 1990s, and Cassini’s breath-taking discoveries have helped shape Leicester’s research into planetary magnetospheres, ionospheres and atmospheres since the robotic explorer launched in 1997.

Professor Emma Bunce, Professor of Planetary Plasma Physics, said: “I am honoured to have been awarded the Chapman medal from the Royal Astronomical Society. I have been fortunate in my career so far to have been involved in high profile missions such as the Cassini mission at Saturn, which means that I am able to take advantage of access to brand new data in the planet’s space environment. Most of all, I am grateful to be working amongst a fantastic team of researchers at the University of Leicester, and with collaborators worldwide who act as great inspiration and support.”

The award will be announced at the Ordinary Meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society at around 4:00PM on Friday 12 January.

The Chapman Medal will be presented to Professor Bunce at the conference dinner at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS) meeting in Liverpool on Thursday 5 April.