Prestigious awards for University of Leicester from the Royal Astronomical Society

University of Leicester academics recognised for their work in planetary and space science

Two University of Leicester academics, Dr Tom Stallard and Dr Nial Tanvir, both from the University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, have received prizes announced today (Friday 11 January) by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS).

Dr Tom Stallard, Associate Professor in Planetary Astronomy, receives the Chapman Medal in Geophysics for his contributions to understanding planetary upper atmospheres and their interactions with their associated magnetospheres. Professor Tanvir, world-leading expert in explosive-universe studies, and Lecturer in Physics and Astronomy, Department of Physics and Astronomy, receives the Herschel Medal.

Dr Stallard’s observations have led to the detection and characterisation of wind systems in Jupiter and Saturn’s auroral/polar regions. Dr Stallard has also discovered evidence of major energetic processes and events such as signatures of magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling, ion vertical profiles, and key temperature and density changes.

His latest contribution is the discovery of Jupiter’s magnetic equator signatures. This work is typical of his insight, patience, and the way in which his work contributes to and supports space missions. The story behind this discovery is explained by Dr Stallard on Nature Research communities.

Dr Stallard said: “I am delighted and deeply honoured to have been awarded the Chapman medal. I am immensely grateful for the support I’ve received over the years from friends and collaborators worldwide and especially my colleagues at the University of Leicester and previously at University College London.

“My work as part of both the astronomical and planetary science communities has benefitted incalculably through the diligence and patience of the staff and fellow researchers at telescopes like Keck, VLT (Very Large Telescope) and IRTF (Infrared Telescope Facility), as well as space missions like Cassini and Juno, and so I also extend my heartfelt thanks to them.”

Dr Tanvir has been at the forefront of searching for explosions created by mergers of extremely dense stars, also known as neutron stars.  These events are of particular interest as they create gravitational waves. They are also thought to be the origin of the majority of elements like gold and platinum in the universe."

Dr Tanvir said: "It was a wonderful surprise to hear that I am to be awarded the RAS Herschel medal.  The projects I have worked on take years to come to fruition, and involve the efforts of many people.

“I'm very honoured to receive this recognition from my fellow astronomers."

Professor Mike Cruise, President of the Royal Astronomical Society, said: “Astronomy and geophysics are disciplines led by an extraordinarily talented group of people. The Royal Astronomical Society recognises the achievements of the very best of these men and women with our medals and awards.

“Our prizes are won by researchers at all stages of their careers, studying the core of the Earth, the distant universe, and everything in between. My congratulations to them all!”

The awards will be presented at the National Astronomy Meeting in Lancaster in July.