Astronomer lauded by American Astronomical Society

Feb. 4, 2009 7:15 p.m.

An astronomer who made worldwide headlines when she discovered, while at Princeton, a supernova in the act of exploding has been honored by the American Astronomical Society.

Alicia Soderberg, an associate of the Harvard College Observatory at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., has been named the winner of the 2009 Annie Jump Cannon Award. Soderberg is being recognized for her exploration of the physics of gamma ray bursts and supernovae and the connections between these two phenomena.

Last year, while working as a Carnegie-Princeton Fellow at Princeton, Soderberg serendipitously recorded the explosive end of a supernova. Soderberg, along with Princeton colleague Edo Berger and dozens of other researchers worldwide reported in an April 2008 Nature paper that the energy and pattern of the X-ray outburst was consistent with what scientists would have expected to see in the birth of a neutron star -- a shock wave blasting through the surface of the original massive star.

Soderberg also was lauded by the society for her "ability to marshal observational resources spanning the electromagnetic spectrum and to integrate empirical results into a theoretical framework."

The award is one of several announced annually by the society to highlight distinctive research in astronomy and astrophysics. "These are terrific achievements, and the prizes are well deserved," said John Huchra, the society's president.