Feeds

Dark matter pioneer scoops Oz science prize

Work on underweight galaxies recognised

Build a business case: developing custom apps

If you want to know why we’re searching for the Universe’s pesky dark matter, here’s someone who deserves to shoulder at least some of the blame: Professor Ken Freeman of Australia’s Mount Stromolo Observatory – and winner of the 2012 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.

You could argue that Professor Freeman has had to wait a long time for this recognition, since his pioneering paper on the topic was penned in 1970s, but don’t worry: he’s been recognised within the astronomy community for quite some time longer. Back in 1993, he was given a Distinguished Achievement Award by University of California Institutes, and in 2001, ISI ranked him as the number five most-cited Australian scientist.

Still, El Reg thinks it’s worth a recap to explain why Professor Freeman has taken the $AU300,000 prize.

Professor Ken Freeman

It starts – as all good science does – with a question. Working in the 1960s at Mount Stromolo after studying at Cambridge for his PhD and taking a post-doctoral fellowship in Texas, Freeman asked why spiral galaxies were able to maintain their circular rotation.

That rotation needs matter to generate sufficient gravity to hold the galaxies together, or their rotation would scatter them. However, combining observation with calculation, Freeman determined that astronomers hadn’t seen enough matter to keep the galaxies together.

This led to the 1970 paper (On the Disks of Spiral and S0 Galaxies) which suggested that galaxies hold more matter than had been observed – a seminal paper in the origin of our understanding of dark matter. Just two years later, Freeman won the Australian Academy of Science’s Pawsey Medal.

Other key achievements are the discovery that the brightness of the surface of disk galaxies is the same, independent of their size (dubbed “Freeman’s Law” in astronomy circles), and that very distant galaxies which were once part of galactic clusters share a chemical signature that allows astronomers to reconstruct their ancient associations. This latter discovery arose out of work with Professor Joss Bland-Hawthorn, now at the University of Sydney.

This “galactic archaeology” is now part of the astronomical mainstream, with instruments such as the ESA’s GAIA telescope (due for launch next year) and the under-construction HERMES instrument at the Australian Astronomical Observatory both being equipped to serve the emerging discipline. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.