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NASA Goddard Solar Scientists Receive 2012 NASA Honor Awards
Heliophysics scientist and 2012 recipients of NASA Honor Awards (l to r): Spiro Antiochos, Jim Klimchuk, Doug Rowland. › View larger
(left to right) Spiro Antiochos, James Klimchuk and Douglas Rowland – along with the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) Science Investigation Team, not shown here – received Agency Honor Awards to celebrate their unique contributions to NASA's mission.

The work NASA scientists and engineers conduct is often recognized around the world. However, it sometimes becomes even more of an achievement to be honored at home. That's exactly what happened to three individuals and one team in the Heliophysics Science Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Three heliophysicists—Spiro K. Antiochos, James A. Klimchuk, Douglas E. Rowland, and the Solar Dynamics Observatory Science Investigation Team recently received Agency Honor Awards to celebrate their unique contributions to NASA's mission. The awards acknowledged their great collaborations to advance heliophysics, contributing to the young research field of space weather that tracks how energy from the sun affects the space environment around Earth and potentially disrupts space technology.

The Agency Honor Awards are granted annually in a ceremony at NASA Headquarters and at each Center. Considered to be the Agency's most prestigious honor awards, each nominee goes through a careful selection process before the NASA administrator approves the final recipients.

The recipients were selected out of 73 individual and 11 group nominations submitted by Goddard's Science and Exploration Directorate. Spiro K. Antiochos, a member of the Space Weather Laboratory and an internationally recognized astrophysicist, received the Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal. This award is given to both Government and non-Government researchers who have produced key scientific discoveries or made key contributions to their field. Antiochos accomplished this with his theory about "slow" solar wind, one of two types of wind from the sun that directly affect the space environment around Earth. While a NASA mission determined that "fast" wind originates at the sun's poles, the origin of "slow" wind had been a mystery.

By studying the sun's magnetic fields, Antiochos collaborated with colleagues at Boston University to develop a model that shows the sun's corona, or atmosphere, has corridors of magnetic field lines that produce the slow wind. Antiochos, who has been working at NASA Goddard since January 2008, said several research groups are now using the model to explain certain features in the heliosphere.

Antiochos said while he was grateful for being recognized with the award, he was even more grateful to his collaborators both in Goddard's Heliophysics Science Division and in the outside community. "I could never have come up with the theory for the slow wind without constant interactions with observers and other modelers both inside and outside Goddard," he said.

James A. Klimchuk, a solar scientist in the Solar Physics Laboratory, received the Outstanding Leadership Medal for his long history of scientific leadership serving both NASA and the international heliophysics community. The award, one of NASA's most prestigious medals, recognizes an individual's leadership efforts in advancing the Agency's missions and acting as a role model.

Klimchuk received the award based on a series of leadership roles his peers have elected him to over the years, including the chair of the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society and president of the Space Physics and Aeronomy section of the American Geophysical Union. In addition, he currently chairs the NASA Solar and Heliospheric Management Operations Working Group, which is the primary advisory committee for solar and heliophysics.

"I'm extremely honored and delighted," Klimchuk said. "I've worked hard to advance the discipline of heliophysics, and it's very gratifying to know that those efforts are appreciated."

Douglas E. Rowland, a scientist assigned to the Space Weather Laboratory, received the Early Career Achievement Medal, awarded to Government employees for unusual and significant achievements an individual makes in the first 10 years of their career. Rowland has worked in this lab since 2003. He received the award for his leadership of a team developing several instruments that measure gas interactions high in Earth's atmosphere and how they contribute to its structure. Two of the instruments, --Firestation, which will fly on the International Space Station, and a Cubesat called Firefly -- study how lightning in the stratosphere and mesosphere produce electron beams that serve as a seed population for the giant radiation belts that surround Earth.

"This award is a great honor, but all of our work here is really a team effort," he said. "We have an amazing team working to design, build and test these instruments, and to analyze the data they return."

The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) Science Investigation Team was selected to receive NASA’s Group Achievement Award. This certificate is awarded to a group of both Government and non-Government employees who together have made accomplishments that significantly contribute to NASA's mission. SDO studies the sun's interior, its atmosphere, called the corona, and the impacts on Earth’s upper atmosphere and nearby space environment. SDO project scientist Dean Pesnell said the team is highly deserving of this award.

"They have worked for a decade to build, launch, and run SDO," he said. "The spectacular imagery and science we get from SDO are a result of their dedication and hard work."

SDO deputy project scientist Phil Chamberlin said the team collaboration enabled its scientists to make some groundbreaking discoveries.

"It's what NASA does enabling science," he said. "It's good for the people on the team to get recognized at this level to show they've done an amazing job."

Though the different awards granted all stand for different things, all of them honor the collaboration that takes place between scientists at Goddard and throughout NASA.

"Science is definitely not an individual endeavor," Antiochos said. "For me, these interactions are what makes science fun."

For more information about NASA heliophysics missions, visit:
Claire De Saravia
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD