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Heather Knutson Wins Astronomy Award

Heather A. Knutson, an assistant professor of planetary science at Caltech, is the 2012 recipient of the Annie Jump Cannon Award in Astronomy. Knutson received the award at the 221st meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), in Long Beach, California.

The Annie Jump Cannon Award is given to a North American female astronomer within five years of receiving her PhD in the year designated for the award, for outstanding research and the promise of future research. Knutson received a cash prize of $1,500 and an invitation to speak at the recent AAS meeting.

According to the award citation, Knutson is being recognized for her "pioneering work on the characterization of exoplanetary atmospheres. Her groundbreaking observations of wavelength-dependent thermal emission of exoplanets over large fractions of their orbit enable a longitudinal mapping of brightness to reveal details of atmospheric dynamics, energy transport, inversion layers, and chemical composition. This work has expanded the rich field of planetary characterization by providing new windows into the atmospheres of planets beyond the confines of our own solar system. It has inspired numerous other theoretical and observational investigations and will serve as an important technique used with current and future space observatories to gain fundamental insight into the properties of exoplanetary atmospheres."

"It was a pleasure to accept this award from the American Astronomical Society," says Knutson. "It is good to see that studies of exoplanetary atmospheres are gaining some positive attention in the astronomy community."

Knutson is one of the founding faculty members of Caltech's new Center for Planetary Astronomy.

Written by Brian Bell