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Two Cardiff led projects recognised

Tuesday 14th January 2014

The Herschel satellite and Vela C. Image credit: ESA.

The Herschel satellite and Vela C. Image credit: ESA

The Royal Astronomy Society's 2014 Group Achievement Award went to the Herschel Space Observatory's SPIRE instrument, and the Planck Space Telescope picked up a share of Physics World's Breakthrough of the Year 2013 award.


The Royal Astronomy Society (RAS) has awarded its 2014 Group Achievement Award in Astronomy to the Cardiff-led team behind the Herschel Space Observatory's SPIRE instrument.

The award represents recognition by the astronomical community of the outstanding success of the SPIRE instrument, which observed the Universe at far infrared wavelengths, a few hundred times longer than the wavelengths of visible light. Led by Professor Matt Griffin from the School of Physics and Astronomy, the international team was responsible for the design, construction and delivery of the instrument as part of the instrument suite for ESA's Herschel Space Observatory.

Speaking of the award, SPIRE Principal Investigator and Head of School Professor Griffin said: "The whole SPIRE team is pleased and proud to be given this award. SPIRE has been a truly international endeavour, with 18 institutes in eight countries participating, and countless talented people with wide ranging expertise contributing to building and operating the instrument. This Group Achievement award for is a fitting tribute to the success of their efforts."

SPIRE Co-Principal Investigator, Laurent Vigroux from the Institut d'astrophysique de Paris (IAP) said: "The work of the SPIRE team has led to a great scientific legacy. For example, SPIRE's observations of star formation in thin filaments is a major breakthrough that has transformed the field and led to a new theory of star formation."

Cardiff's Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Karen Holford said: "The University has strongly supported the SPIRE project over a 13 year period, and is proud to have enabled the achievements of the Cardiff-led team. We are delighted for our staff in the School of Physics and Astronomy and their national and international colleagues."

Some of the SPIRE team at a consortium meeting in Cardiff, June 2013. Image credit: SPIRE consortium


Artist's impression of Planck scanning the sky.  Image Copyright ESA (C. Carreau)

Artist's impression of Planck scanning the sky. Image Copyright ESA (C. Carreau)

Planck's Physics World Award

In addition, The scientists working on the European Space Agency’s Planck space telescope shared one of Physics World's Breakthroughs of the Year 2013 awards "for making the most precise measurement ever of the cosmic microwave background radiation."

Cardiff University researchers, led by Professor Peter Ade and Drs Rashmi Sudiwala and Carole Tucker, have been heavily involved in the design, build, testing and operation of the Planck High Frequency Instrument for over ten years.

After an impressive two and a half years of operation, the Planck mission was finally terminated in 2013. The full sky surveys conducted by Planck are giving us the best ever view of the early Universe yet we still have a wealth of data to analyse over the coming months and years indeed, we expect to release fundamental cosmological information in 2014.

Professor Ade said "It is a pleasant surprise to be awarded this prestigious accolade from Physics World before we release the main cosmological data."