Michael Perryman awarded prestigious Tycho Brahe Prize
ESA Science & Technology: Michael Perryman awarded prestigious Tycho Brahe Prize
awarded prestigious Tycho Brahe Prize
06 Jun 2011
Professor Michael Perryman, the scientific leader of ESA's Hipparcos mission, and a founding father of its successor mission, Gaia, has been awarded the 2011 Tycho Brahe Prize from the European Astronomical Society.
The prize recognises the extraordinary work accomplished by Perryman
in shepherding the field of astrometry to its successful leap into space-based observations and demonstrating the importance of measuring stellar positions for a plethora of astronomical applications.
British astrophysicist Michael Perryman has been inextricably linked to the field of space-based astrometry since the 1980's when, shortly after receiving his PhD from Cambridge University, UK, he joined ESA and quickly became acquainted with one of the scientific projects being studied by the Agency at the time: the Hipparcos mission, the first space-based telescope dedicated to measuring the positions, motions and distances of stars.
With a background in theoretical physics and extragalactic astronomy, it was not immediately obvious that astrometry was a discipline that could capture his
interest, but Perryman
was soon captivated by the ingenious and elegant technique of the new satellite concept and by its immense scientific potential.
The Hipparcos mission was conceived in the late 1960s by French astronomer Pierre Lacroute and, when accepted into the ESA science programme in 1980, Perryman was appointed project scientist.
Hipparcos was launched in 1989 and, with Perryman assuming the role of operations manager in addition, observed for 3.5 years before operations ceased in March 1993.
The scientific reach of the Hipparcos mission has gone well beyond astrometry and has had profound implications for the fields of stellar and galactic astronomy, as well as cosmology and fundamental physics.
This prestigious award recognises Perryman's
"crucial role in the fostering of high precision, global stellar astrometry from space, in particular the development of the Hipparcos mission," and acknowledges his
pivotal work leading this fully European enterprise "through many difficulties to its ultimate success."
The exciting progress of the Hipparcos mission, from concept to launch and beyond, including an account of its many astronomical applications, is reported in Perryman's
book "The Making of History's Greatest Star Map", published in 2010.
The mission is also presented, in the broader framework of astrometry, in a comprehensive textbook also written by him, "Astronomical Applications of Astrometry: Ten Years of Exploitation of the Hipparcos Satellite Data", published in 2009.