Leicester Space Scientist Receives Prestigious Award From Royal Astronomical Society

Professor Emma Bunce - Credit: The Telegraph

Professor Emma Bunce from the University of Leicester awarded Chapman Medal for outstanding research into gas giant planets 

A space scientist from the University of Leicester has received a prestigious award from the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) for her outstanding research into the physics of the gas giant planet magnetospheres of Jupiter and Saturn. 

Professor Emma Bunce, from the University of Leicester's Department of Physics and Astronomy, has received the Chapman Medal from the RAS for her research which has helped to develop our understanding of the physical properties of electric current systems flowing in the magnetospheres of the gas giant planets, and their connection with the polar auroras in their upper atmospheres. 

Professor Bunce was the first to analyse simultaneous observations of Saturn’s UV auroras by the Hubble Space Telescope and measurements of electric currents in the high-latitude magnetosphere measured by the Cassini spacecraft. This work clearly established a connection between upward-directed magnetic field-aligned currents flowing near the boundary of open and closed field lines and the auroral oval, as proposed in Leicester’s earlier modelling work. 

Planetary scientists from the University of Leicester have played key roles in the Cassini mission since the 1990s, and Cassini’s breath-taking discoveries have helped shape Leicester’s research into planetary magnetospheres, ionospheres and atmospheres since the robotic explorer launched in 1997. 

Professor Emma Bunce, Professor of Planetary Plasma Physics at the University of Leicester, said: “I am honoured to have been 

awarded the Chapman medal from the Royal Astronomical Society. I have been fortunate in my career so far to have been involved in high profile missions such as the Cassini mission at Saturn, which means that I am able to take advantage of access to brand new data in the planet’s space environment. Most of all, I am grateful to be working amongst a fantastic team of researchers at the University of Leicester, and with collaborators worldwide who act as great inspiration and support.” 

The Chapman Medal is awarded for investigations of outstanding merit in the science of the Sun, space and planetary environments or solar-terrestrial physics. The Medal is awarded by the RAS for a single outstanding piece of work. 

Professor John Zarnecki, President of the Royal Astronomical Society, said: “It is an enormous pleasure to congratulate the 2018 cohort of winners of our awards and medals. Over nearly two centuries, the Society has recognised the very best men and women in astronomy, space science and geophysics, in the UK and around the world, and this year is no exception. Winners this year are from across the gamut of our sciences, including developing instrumentation for the first detection of gravitational waves, studying the distant universe, making a success of the Rosetta mission and understanding volcanic activity in Iceland. The achievements of all of them are incredibly impressive, and I am delighted to see their work recognised in this way.” 

The Chapman Medal will be presented to Professor Bunce at the conference dinner at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS) meeting in Liverpool on Thursday 5 April. 

More information about the Chapman Medal is available here: https://www.ras.org.uk/awards-and-grants/awards/2264-chapman-medal