Feeds

Dark matter pioneer scoops Oz science prize

Work on underweight galaxies recognised

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.