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The Arctowski Medal is presented every two years to recognize outstanding contributions to the study of solar physics and solar terrestrial relationships. The Medal is now presented with an award of $100,000, plus $100,000 to support research in solar physics and solar terrestrial relationships at an institution of the recipient's choice. The Arctowski Medal was established in 1958 by the bequest of Jane Arctowska in honor of her husband, Henryk Arctowski.
The Arctowski Medal was last presented in 2015 to Alexander J. Dessler, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Texas A&M University, and Professor Emeritus at Rice University. Dessler was selected to honor his notable imagination in framing many of space science’s most basic conceptions about the solar wind and interplanetary magnetic field and their interactions with the magnetospheres of Earth and other planets.
Dessler’s research career began in 1956 at the dawn of the space age. During the second half of the twentieth century, space science became a rigorous field of research in which theoretical reasoning could be challenged by observations made with instruments on the ground and in space, and Dessler was a pioneer in both arenas. During this time, it was established that space was not empty but filled with ionized gas (plasma) and embedded magnetic fields. The Sun’s hot outer atmosphere was found to be not static but exploding continuously outward to produce a supersonic solar wind extending well beyond the realm of the planets. Dessler originated the concept of corotating interaction regions in which slower solar wind is overtaken by faster solar wind, producing magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) shock waves that perturb any planet that lies in their path.
Dessler was instrumental in developing the concept of the planetary magnetosphere—the comet-shaped cavity that surrounds planets such as Earth where the planet’s magnetic field dominates rather than the solar wind. His work was also key to the development of theories about the much larger but analogous heliosphere, the bubble that surrounds the solar system where plasma motions are determined by the solar wind and its embedded interplanetary magnetic field. Dessler elucidated the roles of MHD waves and of Birkeland currents, which are aligned with the magnetic field, in providing the communication and dynamic coupling between the solar wind, the magnetosphere and the underlying planetary ionosphere. These interactions underlie the dazzling polar auroras. His analyses of the effects of the South Atlantic (magnetic) Anomaly on the structure and dynamics of the Van Allen radiation belts (donut-shaped zones of charged particles that are trapped in Earth’s magnetic field) proved crucial in subsequent studies of Jupiter’s pulsar-like magnetosphere.
Dessler’s research largely anticipated, and greatly enabled the analysis of, the major heliospheric discoveries of the space age. It is no accident that his 1960’s vision of Earth’s magnetosphere adorns the Arctowski Medal.
Alexander J. Dessler (2015)
For his notable imagination in framing many of space science's most basic conceptions about the solar wind and interplanetary magnetic field and their interactions with the magnetospheres of earth and other planets at the beginning of the Space Age.
John T. Gosling (2013)
For elucidating fundamental issues in the physics of the solar atmosphere and solar wind, including revealing the "Solar Flare Myth", discovering bi-directional solar-electron streaming and, in the last decade, finding reconnection events in the solar wind.
John W. Harvey (2011)
For major contributions to understanding the sun’s magnetic fields and its interior structure, and for developing the instrumentation that has made these discoveries possible.
Marcia Neugebauer (2010)
For definitively establishing the existence of the solar wind, critical to understanding the physics of the heliosphere, and for elucidating many of its key properties.
Leonard F. Burlaga (2008)
For pioneering studies of the magnetized solar wind plasma from 0.3 to 102 AU, including the recent crossings of the Voyagers of the heliospheric termination shock and their entry in the heliosheath.
Edward J. Smith (2005)
For his pioneering studies of the solar and heliospheric magnetic fields in deep space and of planetary magnetic fields and their interaction with the solar wind.
Roger K. Ulrich (2002)
For recognizing the solar five-minute oscillations as acoustic modes in the solar interior and systematically developing both the theory and the observations to establish today's precise standard model of the solar interior.
Arthur J. Hundhausen (1999)
For his exceptional research in solar and solar-wind physics, particularly in the area of coronal and solar-wind disturbances.
Raymond G. Roble (1996)
For his indispensable contributions to understanding the effects of variable solar inputs on the Earth's atmosphere and ionosphere by powerful global modeling techniques.
John A. Simpson (1993)
For his pioneering studies of the properties of the charged particle environment of the Sun, the Earth, and the other planets.
Peter A. Sturrock (1990)
For major contributions to the understanding of solar magnetic activity, especially with regard to the genesis and effect of solar flares.
John A. Eddy (1987)
For his demonstration of the existence and nature of solar variations of long term and the consequences of these changes for climate and for mankind.
William E. Gordon (1984)
For his pioneering development of theory and instrumentation for radar backscatter studies, which opened a broad field of research in the high altitude ionosphere.
Thomas M. Donahue (1981)
For his fundamental contributions to understanding the role of solar radiations in the physics and chemistry of the atmospheres and ionosphere of the Earth, Mars, and Venus.
John R. Winckler (1978)
For his outstanding research on the solar modulation and acceleration of high energy particles and the discoveries of solar flare gamma rays and auroral X-rays.
Jacques M. Beckers (1975)
For his extraordinary originality and achievement in the discovery and study of exotic small-scale phenomena in the Sun.
Francis S. Johnson (1972)
For his pioneering work in the physics of the high atmosphere and space.
Eugene N. Parker (1969)
For his comprehensive and imaginative contributions to the theoretical understanding of plasma interactions with the solar and terrestrial magnetic fields.
J. Paul Wild (1969)
In recognition of his many and comprehensive contributions to solar radio astronomy.