Skrutskie Earns National Academy’s Watson Medal

Jan. 22, 2007 -- The National Academy of Sciences has awarded the James Craig Watson Medal to Michael F. Skrutskie, professor of astronomy at the University of Virginia, for his leadership of a major project that surveyed the entire sky in the infrared, providing the first-ever “bird’s-eye view” of the Milky Way.

The medal is awarded every three years for contributions to the science of astronomy and has been presented since 1887. Skrutskie’s project colleague Roc M. Cutri, of the California Institute of Technology, also received the award.

The James Craig Watson Medal comes with a prize of $25,000, plus $25,000 to support continuing research.

As principal investigator for the Two-Micron All Sky Survey, a project sponsored by NASA and the National Science Foundation, Skrutskie was responsible for the overall management of the project, and for developing infrared cameras, telescopes and computing systems.

Skrutskie specializes in constructing infrared cameras and spectrographs, devices that are able to penetrate the cosmic haze and detect and measure heat radiation coming from stars and other bodies.

“These capabilities effectively extend the reach of our senses. Our eyes have been opened, and we see a much richer universe as a result,” Skrutskie said.

Skrutskie leads a U.Va. program in telescope instrument design, which has attracted high-quality students and contributes to the development of hardware for new and existing telescopes at U.Va. and elsewhere.