By Patricia Daukantas
Two telescope-building astronomers who have won OSA awards for optical engineering are among this year’s winners of the Kavli Prize for Astrophysics.
The Kavli Prizes, worth $1 million each, are bestowed every two years in the fields of astrophysics, neuroscience and nanoscience – areas that didn’t really exist when the Nobel Prizes were founded.
Jerry Nelson, J. Roger P. Angel and Raymond N. Wilson shared the astrophysics prize for their contributions to the technology behind some of the world’s largest telescopes.
Nelson, of the Center for Adaptive Optics at the University of California at Santa Cruz (U.S.A.), served as project scientist for the twin 10-m-aperture Keck Telescopes on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea. These telescopes use his design of lightweight hexagonal mirror segments with active controls to keep the optics perfectly aligned. His pioneering design is being used in other large telescopes now under construction. An OSA member, Nelson received the 1996 Joseph Fraunhofer Award/Robert M. Burley Prize from OSA for his contributions to optical engineering.
Angel, director of the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab at the University of Arizona, took a different approach to the design of large, lightweight telescope mirrors: casting them as a single unit in a giant spinning furnace that cools slowly. The resulting mirrors have a near-parabolic top surface and a honeycomb structure underneath. He received OSA’s Fraunhofer Award/Burley Prize in 2007 for his body of work, which includes fiber-fed spectroscopy and solar photovoltaic technology.
The third winner of the astrophysics Kavli Prize, Raymond N. Wilson, formerly of the European Southern Observatory in Germany and Imperial College London in England, developed the computer-controlled actuation system for active optics, which is used in many of the world’s largest observatories.
Five scientists from U.S. universities and industrial research centers shared the Kavli Prizes in nanoscience and neuroscience. The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters made the prize announcement this morning. Funding for the prizes comes from comes from the Kavli Foundation.
2010-06 June, Astronomy, Astrophysics