The ‘International Astronomical Union’ has announced the maiden winners of its three new prizes, created earlier this year: the Astronomy Outreach Prize, Astronomy Development Prize and Astronomy Education Prize.
The IAU Astronomy Outreach, Development and Education (ODE) Prizes were created with generous funding from IAU Past President Ewine van Dishoeck. The three awards recognise individuals and organisations who have made outstanding contributions to the fields of astronomy outreach, development and education.
In February 2022, the first call for nominations went out with a deadline of 15 March 2022. A total of 40 valid nominations were received, with both the nominators and nominees spanning the entire globe.
Following recommendation by the ODE Prize Committees, the IAU Executive Committee approved the following nominees to win the first set of prizes:
- Outreach: Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) — a website created by Robert J. Nemiroff and Jerry T. Bonnell
- Development: Michèle Gerbaldi
- Education: Rosa Doran
The awards will be presented at the IAU XXXI General Assembly (IAUGA2022) in Busan, South Korea, in this August. Brief commendations for each of the winners are below.
IAU Astronomy Outreach Prize
The 2022 ODE Outreach Prize is awarded to Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) for their more than 25 years of curating the daily Astronomy Picture of the Day, which is now available in more than 20 languages, seen by millions each day, and used in classrooms throughout the world. APOD has been influential in encouraging interest in astronomy around the world: each of the images is accompanied by explanatory captions which is one reason it is widely adopted in primary/secondary school and university-level courses.
Pictures are contributed by professional and amateur astronomers, and increasingly also by astrophotographers, for whom an APOD publication is a gold standard. Featured images cover a wide range of topics from the Cosmic Microwave Background and the most distant galaxies to aurorae on Earth.
Robert J. Nemiroff and Jerry T. Bonnell said: “We’re honoured to receive this recognition for APOD by the IAU and proud that an effort that started as an informal collaboration and persisted as a labour of love of science outreach has become international in scope. We are very grateful to have been joined in APOD by so many like-minded individuals around planet Earth.”
IAU Astronomy Development Prize
The 2022 ODE Development Prize is awarded to Michèle Gerbaldi for her exceptionally wide and sustained contributions to development and capacity building using astronomy as a tool during her long career. She has had a special focus on the developing world, where her efforts have legacy value. Particularly notable is her leading role in the organisation of, and hands-on teaching at, numerous International Schools for Young Astronomers (ISYA) for MSc students in developing countries.
The AstroLab program that she has co-founded and developed has been much used around Africa and South America. This programme links students and teachers to tutors and professional astronomers, and introduces them to creative thinking, research skills and methodologies by means of remote observing with real telescopes. Michèle Gerbaldi’s work goes beyond astronomy education, bringing about capacity building and development in a sustainable way.
Michèle Gerbaldi said: “I have always loved to meet and to discuss with people of different cultures and backgrounds: this is the drive for my passion for education as a tool for development. I receive this prize with great emotion, and feel deeply honoured. Nothing would have been possible without the freedom to create and develop that characterises the IAU. The continued support of the IAU Officers and the IAU Offices is the crucial key that makes such development possible”.
IAU Astronomy Education Prize
The 2022 ODE Education prize is awarded to Rosa Doran for her powerful, inclusive, innovative, inspirational, far-reaching, even transformational astronomy education achievements over more than three decades. She set up, secured funding for, helped coordinate and lead numerous small- and large-scale projects in developed and developing countries, projects which have reached many thousands of teachers and kids all over the globe. She is a powerhouse and has become a global leader. As one nominator wrote: her goal is to change the world through astronomy education.
Rosa Doran said: “I always felt connected with the Universe and the urge to know more. At some point in my life, I understood that astronomy can be a strong drive to transform the perception humans have about themselves and their place in the cosmos. This prize is really unexpected and I feel very honoured and humbled to receive it. I will carry this treasure with me to ensure that my journey has even more impact in inspiring new generations to embrace their power.”
Ewine van Dishoeck said: “It is high time that the IAU not only celebrates excellence in research, but also in other areas that are increasingly important aspects of being an astronomer. These first winners embody the highest standards in outreach, development and education and provide an inspiration to so many of us.”
Further information on eligibility, the definitions of each area and the selection process for the prizes can be found here. The next set of ODE prizes will be awarded at the 2024 General Assembly in South Africa.
This report was first shared by IAU.