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Royal Astronomical Society recognition for Cardiff stargazers

13 January 2014

Scientists inspect astronomical instrument

The Royal Astronomy Society (RAS) has awarded its 2014 Group Achievement Award to the Cardiff led team behind the Herschel Space Observatory's SPIRE instrument.

The award represents recognition by the astronomical community of the outstanding success of the SPIRE instrument, which observed the Universe at far infrared wavelengths, a few hundred times longer than the wavelengths of visible light. Led by Professor Matt Griffin from the School of Physics and Astronomy, the international team was responsible for the design, construction and delivery of the instrument as part of the instrument suite for ESA's Herschel Space Observatory.

The Herschel satellite was launched in 2009 and operated very successfully for four years. By virtue of its unparalleled sensitivity and unique capabilities, the results obtained using SPIRE have been felt across a broad swath of astrophysics and in particular in detailed studies of star formation in the local Universe and extending out to very distant objects.

Speaking of the award, SPIRE Principal Investigator Professor Griffin said:

"The whole SPIRE team is pleased and proud to be given this award. SPIRE has been a truly international endeavour, with 18 institutes in eight countries participating, and countless talented people with wide ranging expertise contributing to building and operating the instrument. This Group Achievement award for is a fitting tribute to the success of their efforts."

SPIRE Co-Principal Investigator, Laurent Vigroux from the Institut d'astrophysique de Paris (IAP) said:

"The work of the SPIRE team has led to a great scientific legacy. For example, SPIRE's observations of star formation in thin filaments is a major breakthrough that has transformed the field and led to a new theory of star formation."

Cardiff's Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Karen Holford said:

"The University has strongly supported the SPIRE project over a 13 year period, and is proud to have enabled the achievements of the Cardiff-led team. We are delighted for our staff in the School of Physics and Astronomy and their national and international colleagues."

Professor David Southwood, President of the Royal Astronomical Society, congratulated the winners:

"For nearly two centuries the RAS has supported the work of astronomers and geophysicists in the UK and around the world. It gives me the greatest pleasure to announce the winners of our medals and awards for 2014, recognising the extraordinarily talented men and women who reach the highest levels of achievement in our field."

The RAS award honours individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to astronomy and will be presented at the 2014 National Astronomy Meeting (NAM 2014) to be held in Portsmouth in June.

Visit the Herschel telescope or European Space Agency websites for images and results from the SPIRE instrument.

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