Monday, September 22, 2014

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Media Advisory: U.Va. Astronomer to Receive Asian Equivalent of Nobel Prize Sept. 23 in Hong Kong

University of Virginia astronomer John Hawley will be awarded the 2013 Shaw Prize in Astronomy on Sept. 23 in Hong Kong at a ceremony officiated by CY Leung, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

The ceremony begins at 7:25 p.m. in the Grand Hall of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and is open to the press. A press briefing and registration begin at 6 p.m. Hawley will also be available for interviews Sept. 22, from 2 to 3:30 p.m., at the Congress Restaurant in the convention and exhibition center. Please visit the press section of the Shaw Prize website for information.

Hawley and former U.Va. astronomer Steven Balbus, now at the University of Oxford, were named co-winners of the prize in May. They will share a $1 million award and address the Shaw Prize selection committee during the ceremony. 

Hawley and Balbus are being recognized for their groundbreaking discovery in the early 1990s of the mechanism – magnetorotational instability – that accounts for the process of accretion, a widespread phenomenon in astrophysics. It plays a key role in star formation, mass transfer between binary stars, and black hole X-ray binaries, and contributes to the growth of supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies. Astrophysical systems powered by accretion are some of the most energetic phenomena in the universe, including quasars, active galactic nuclei and gamma ray bursts. You can read more about their work here.

The Shaw Prize Foundation annually gives the international award – which also includes a gold medal – to currently active individuals who are “furthering societal progress, enhancing quality of life, and enriching humanity’s spiritual civilization.” Its categories are astronomy, life science and medicine and mathematical sciences. The Shaw Prize is regarded as Asia’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize and is awarded in some categories – including astronomy – which the Nobel does not include.

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