11 January 2016 10:06

Dr Sarah Badman has been hailed as “one of the top early-career planetary physicists in the world” after being awarded a prize by the Royal Astronomical Society.

Each year the Society recognises significant achievement in the fields of astronomy and geophysics through a range of awards including the Gold Medal, previously awarded to Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

Dr Badman has won the Society’s 2016 Fowler Award for Geophysics for her research into the magnetic field environments of Jupiter and Saturn.

She said she was honoured by the award.

“I have been fascinated by space and the planets since I was at school and I never thought I would end up working with the Cassini mission to explore the solar system.”

Dr Badman is described by the Royal Astronomical Society as “an outstanding young scientist, who has already made an international impact on our understanding of magnetospheric and auroral dynamics in the solar system.

“Her outstanding research has been recognised by several prestigious fellowships and she is regarded as one of the top early-career planetary physicists in the world.”

Dr Badman’s work has revealed a fundamental characteristic of Saturn’s aurorae using images acquired by the Hubble Space Telescope.

She has also determined the typical location of Saturn’s northern infrared aurora and provided the first description of how magnetic flux varies in response to solar wind conditions, and demonstrated that Saturn’s magnetosphere is more a mix of Earth and Jupiter.

This was critical in framing subsequent Cassini spacecraft observations of the dynamics of the magnetosphere of Saturn.

More recently, Dr Badman made the first in situ measurements of transient reconnection between Saturn’s magnetic field and the interplanetary magnetic field.

Professor Martin Barstow, President of the Royal Astronomical Society, offered his congratulations:

“The UK and indeed the whole world have a wealth of extraordinarily talented women and men working in astronomy and geophysics. Each year the Society marks their achievements with our awards and medals, something it gives me huge pleasure to announce. I am delighted to congratulate all the winners and wish them continued success in their scientific careers.”

The winners will be invited to collect their awards at the Society's 2016 National Astronomy Meeting in June.