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Peter Gilman, NCAR scientist
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UCAR Communications

Highest Honor in Solar Physics, Hale Prize, Goes to NCAR Scientist

June 22, 2006

BOULDER—The Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society has announced the award of its highest honor, the George Ellery Hale Prize for achievement in solar physics, to Peter Gilman, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Gilman is being recognized for his contributions to understanding the origin of the Sun's magnetic field and for his leadership and support of solar physics research.

Peter Gillman
Peter Gillman. Click here or on image to enlarge. (Photo by Carlye Calvin, UCAR.)

A researcher at NCAR's High Altitude Observatory division since 1969, Gilman currently leads the division's Solar Interior and Variability section. For over three decades he has studied the solar interior and the mysterious processes that generate the solar magnetic field.

"Dynamo theory has come a long way," says David Hathaway, the Hale Prize committee chair. "In the 1970s nobody knew why the Sun has a magnetic field, but now Peter and his collaborators are close to full understanding of how the Sun's magnetic field is generated and why there is an 11-year sunspot cycle."

In the early 1980s, Gilman performed pioneering computer simulations of magnetism in our rotating star and made the first suggestion that the solar dynamo might be confined to a thin layer (called the "tachocline" or convection zone) about 1/3rd of the way in from the surface. Those simulations were initial precursors to today's global-scale simulations of the Sun's outer layers. Gilman's simulations also eventually led to the revival of an earlier approach, called mean field dynamo theory, that has been used by HAO's Mausumi Dikpati and colleagues to build new dynamo-based models of flux transport through the convection zone. Based on these models, Dikpati and her team recently issued predictions for the upcoming sunspot cycle.

The sunspot cycle is a longstanding puzzle of solar physics: since the time of Galileo, western scientists have wondered at the dark, Earth-sized blemishes that appear on the surface of the Sun from time to time. Sunspots are now known to be manifestations of the solar magnetic field, and intimately linked with space weather experienced here on Earth.

The Hale Prize is awarded annually to an individual scientist who has made outstanding contributions to the field of solar astronomy over an extended period of time. The award includes a medal and an honorarium.

Gilman is presenting the honorary Hale Prize lecture at the annual meeting of the Solar Physics Division, under way at the University of New Hampshire, on Thursday, June 29, at 10:15 a.m. EDT. His topic is the origin of the solar magnetic field.


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