Queen’s astrophysicist awarded Royal Irish Academy Gold Medal

  • Professor Stephen Smartt of Queen's University Belfast's Astrophysics Research Centre has been awarded a Gold Medal by the Royal Irish Academy for outstanding influence in his field.

    The Royal Irish Academy awards the prestigious Gold Medal in the Physical and Mathematical Sciences category only once every four years, recognising an Irish contributor to the field who has made a wide impact in his or her field. The latest award goes to Professor Stephen Smartt for his world-leading research in the field of sky surveys and astrophysical transients.

    Professor Smartt has led several international projects surveying the sky using innovative cutting-edge technology to find and catalogue distant supernova explosions. Using allocated time on the Hubble Space Telescope, he was then able to follow up on those observations and directly identify which stars were undergoing supernova.

    Through these projects, Smartt discovered many examples of the rare and powerful "super-luminous" supernovae and proposed that the theory that the intense magnetic fields of neutron stars were causing that extreme brightness. He also led an international team in 2017 that was involved in the identification of gravitational waves from merging neutron stars, and showed that merging neutron stars can produce a brief but high-luminosity explosion.

    "I'm delighted that the Higher Education Authority support these awards," said Professor Smartt, adding "I have always believed that primary, secondary and tertiary education is the cornerstone of a happy, healthy and coherent society. We have a duty to educate and inspire our pupils and students at every level of education, in Ireland, the UK and across the globe."



    Source: QUB Press Release

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