Royal Astronomical Society award for Leicester space scientist

A researcher from the University of Leicester has been recognised by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) for her ‘significant contribution’ to scientists’ understanding of the Martian atmosphere.

Dr Beatriz Sánchez-Cano, STFC Ernest Rutherford Fellow within the School of Physics and Astronomy, has been awarded the 2022 RAS Fowler (G) Award for her research of Mars’ ionosphere.

Through analysis of data from a range of instruments and missions, and through development of a widely-used numerical model, Dr Sánchez-Cano’s work has identified important solar cycle and seasonal variations, as well as the ionospheric response to extreme space weather, such as the so-called solar wind and other high energy particle events.

She is also guest investigator for the BepiColombo mission, on which the University of Leicester contributes the Mercury Imaging X-ray Spectrometer (MIXS), in addition to her involvement with various current and future Mars missions, including leadership of a European Space Agency (ESA) Voyage 2050 white paper on Mars’ plasma environment.

The Society’s commendation also paid tribute to Dr Sánchez-Cano as an ‘active and enthusiastic communicator of science to a wide variety of audiences’.

Dr Sánchez-Cano said: “I feel very honoured to receive this award from the Royal Astronomical Society in recognition of my contribution to planetary science.

“I do not have enough words to express my gratitude to the Society, to the colleagues who thought about my work and nominated me, to the UK Magnetosphere, Ionosphere and Solar-Terrestrial (MIST) community, and to the amazing colleagues and collaborators that have always guided me throughout my career and helped to ‘spread my wings’, especially here at the University of Leicester.

“I really hope my work and this award can help and encourage early-careers pursuing their path in research.”

Professor Emma Bunce is President of the Royal Astronomical Society and also head of the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy. She added: “I’m delighted that through our awards and medals, the Royal Astronomical Society continues to recognise the wealth of talent in the fields of astronomy, geophysics and space science. Our award winners continue to inspire us year after year by uncovering the mysteries of the Universe and the world around us, and encouraging others to do the same. My congratulations to all the winners of our 2022 awards!”

The RAS Fowler Award for early achievement in geophysics was established in 2004 through the generosity of Mrs Rosemary Fowler. The prize is awarded to individuals who have made a particularly noteworthy contribution to geophysics (including emerging areas), within 10 years of completing their PhD.

A full list of winners of Royal Astronomical Society awards in 2022 is available at