Trailblazing HAO research recognized by National Academy of Sciences

Former Senior Scientist Tim Brown lauded for planet-finding work at NCAR

June 28, 2016 | Former HAO Senior Scientist Tim Brown has received a prestigious award from the National Academy of Sciences for landmark research that he conducted while at NCAR in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The James Craig Watson Medal is presented every two years for outstanding contributions to the science of astronomy. It recognizes Brown for pioneering instrument developments and observations, and for formulating a method to make extremely sensitive images of the Sun, which became key to the field of helioseismology.

HAO research recognized: Tim Brown with STARE telescope
Tim Brown at HAO in 2001 with the specialized STARE (Stellar Astrophysics and Research on Exoplanets) telescope that he used to detect the dimming caused when a planet transits, or crosses in front of, its parent star. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

With David Charbonneau, a then-NCAR graduate student fellow who is now a professor at Harvard University, Brown in the mid-1990s measured the first transits of a planet from another solar system in front of its star. He went on to develop a method to study the atmospheres of such exoplanets through analysis of the light of the planet’s parent star. This technique is now used by teams around the globe and has been applied to dozens of faraway worlds.

Brown, now with the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network in Goleta, California, will return to NCAR later this year to make a presentation about his research as part of the High Altitude Observatory’s colloquium program.

"We are extremely proud of Tim," said HAO Director Scott McIntosh. "The landmark research that he conducted here, with an instrument of his own design and construction, has truly blazed a trail. His insight and drive to complete the pioneering project with his students has dramatically advanced humanity's understanding of our place in the universe. I am extremely happy to see Tim’s work being recognized with such a notable award."

The award carries a $25,000 prize and $50,000 to support the recipient's research.

David Hosansky, Manager of Media Relations