Astronomer receives American Astronomical Society’s highest award

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people riding on a snow mobile

Ann Boesgaard, left, and two observing assistants returning to Halepōhaku after a night of observing with the UH 2.2-m telescope on Maunakea, in January 1971. (Photo credit: Alan Stockton)

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Ann Merchant Boesgaard

The Institute for Astronomy’s (IfA) Ann Merchant Boesgaard, professor emerita of astronomy at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, has been awarded the 2019 Henry Norris Russell Lectureship by the American Astronomical Society (AAS). The Russell Prize is the organization’s highest award bestowed each year on the basis of a lifetime of eminence in astronomical research.

Boesgaard was recognized for her pioneering, sustained work in using light-element abundances to test Big Bang nucleosynthesis and to probe stellar structure and stellar evolution.

AAS, the major organization of professional astronomers in North America, named the recipients of its 2019 prizes at its 233rd semi-annual meeting in Seattle, Washington on January 8.

“My first paper was published in The Astrophysical Journal in 1965, 54 years ago,” said Boesgaard. “There were many long nights at telescopes, in the dark, freezing cold atop Mount Hamilton (California), Mount Wilson (California) and mostly Maunakea. This recognition of my research career is thrilling.”

In the past few decades, Bosegaard’s work has made extensive use of the UH 2.2-m telescope, Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea.

The award includes an engraved certificate, a monetary prize, an invitation to deliver a lecture dealing with a broad astronomical field at a future AAS meeting and publication of the lecture in a society journal. Boesgaard will deliver her lecture at the society’s winter meeting in January 2020 in Honolulu.

“Ann Boesgaard has devoted her career to the study of the light elements—lithium, beryllium and boron—in the atmospheres of stars, and to what that can tell us not only about the structure and evolution of stars but also about the formative stages of the entire Universe. We are delighted that she is receiving this well-deserved recognition for her lifetime achievements,” said IfA Director Robert McLaren.

For more, see the Institute for Astronomy news release.