Two Princeton graduate alumni — Claire Max *72, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California–Santa Cruz, and David Weinberg *89, a professor of astronomy at Ohio State University — were recognized for their achievements in instrument development and scientific research at last week’s meeting of theAmerican Astronomical Society in Seattle. Max received the Joseph Weber Award for Astronomical Instrumentation, and Weinberg was awarded the Lancelot M. Berkeley–New York Community Trust Prize. Past Tiger of the Week honoree and Princeton professor David Spergel ’82 also was among the AAS prizewinners, sharing the Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics with colleague Marc Kamionkowski of Johns Hopkins.
Max, the 2009 winner of Princeton’s James Madison Medal, is an expert in adaptive optics, which enables earth-based telescopes to see distant objects more clearly by correcting for image distortions produced by the earth’s atmosphere. Specifically, the AAS award recognized her invention of sodium-laser-guide-star adaptive optics, and her long-term contributions to the field. “Her leadership has transformed how we observe by making near-diffraction-limited imaging possible on large ground-based telescopes, thus opening new fields of discovery including resolving stars and gas near supermassive black holes and studying extrasolar planets,” the AAS release said.
Weinberg, who was recognized for “highly meritorious work in advancing the science of astronomy,” delivered the final plenary lecture of the AAS meeting, an overview of insights in cosmology and galaxy evolution drawn from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), which has been actively mapping the universe since 2000. Weinberg’s involvement with SDSS actually dates back to 1992, when he was a postdoc at the Institute for Advanced Study. In addition to his research and teaching, Weinberg has collaborated with artist Josiah McElheny on cosmology-inspired sculptures.