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. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.