Astrophysicist Jonathan Fortney awarded Urey Prize for planetary research

Jonathan Fortney

The Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society has awarded the 2010 Harold C. Urey Prize in Planetary Science to Jonathan Fortney, assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. Fortney will receive the prize and give an invited lecture at a meeting of the division in Pasadena in October.

The Urey Prize recognizes and encourages outstanding achievements in planetary sciences by a young scientist. Fortney is the third UCSC faculty member to win this award. Previous recipients were Francis Nimmo (2007) and Erik Asphaug (1998), both in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

Fortney is an astrophysicist whose work focuses on understanding the structure and properties of planets, including the giant planets in our solar system such as Jupiter and Saturn, as well as "exoplanets" around other stars. He uses computer modeling techniques to study the atmospheres, interiors, and thermal evolution of these planets. Fortney is a member of the science team for NASA's Kepler Mission, which is searching for Earth-like planets using a specially designed space telescope. His role in the mission is to help understand the planets detected by the telescope.

In February, Fortney was awarded a prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship. He joined the UCSC faculty in 2008.