Feb. 1, 2016
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Lab physicist awarded 2016 astrophysics prize by American Astronomical Society

Anne M. Stark, stark8 [at] llnl.gov, (925) 422-9799

The Laboratory Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) has selected LLNL researcher Peter Beiersdorfer as the recipient of the 2016 Laboratory Astrophysics Prize.

This honor is given to an individual who has made significant contributions to laboratory astrophysics over an extended period of time. Beiersdorfer was cited for his numerous contributions to the study of astronomical environments at extreme-ultraviolet and X-ray wavelengths.

"I feel great. I am totally thrilled to have been selected for this prize," Beiersdorfer said.

He pioneered techniques to reproduce conditions on comets and in the sun's atmosphere, interstellar space and the centers of galaxies. A major focus of his research involves characterizing atomic and molecular diagnostics as revealed by their X-ray spectra. His studies of emission from the inner electron shells of iron, oxygen, neon, silicon and sulfur are used to interpret the physical conditions in astronomical environments, near and far. His work on X-ray emission from charge exchange revealed the importance of this process in cometary atmospheres.

With continuous NASA support since 1991, Beiersdorfer has carried out much of his laboratory astrophysics work at the Livermore electron beam ion trap (EBIT) Facility. His studies of cometary charge exchange were initiated in 1999 by LLNL’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program. More recently, he has received support from DOE's General Plasma Science Program for conducting laboratory astrophysics measurements on U.S. magnetic fusion facilities, notably the National Spherical Torus Experiment at Princeton.

Beiersdorfer’s previous honors include fellowship in the American Physical Society (APS) and numerous LLNL distinguished achievement awards. He received one of the inaugural Outstanding Referee Awards of APS, and beginning in January, he became the chair of the nearly 3,000-member-strong Far West Section of APS. With his collaborators, he has published more than 500 scientific papers, of which more than 50 have rbeen cited in Astrophysical Journal, Science and Nature.