Physicist Bill Atwood shares Rossi Prize for work on gamma-ray telescope

William Atwood

The 2011 Bruno Rossi Prize has been awarded to UC Santa Cruz physicist Bill Atwood, Stanford physicist Peter Michelson, and the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope's Large Area Telescope (LAT) team.

Atwood and Michelson were partners in conceiving and developing the LAT. The prize was given "for enabling, through the development of the Large Area Telescope, new insights into neutron stars, supernova remnants, cosmic rays, binary systems, active galactic nuclei, and gamma-ray bursts."

The Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope, formerly called GLAST, is an international and multi-agency space observatory that studies the cosmos in gamma-rays, the most energetic form of light. The LAT is one of two instruments onboard Fermi and is the most sensitive and highest-resolution gamma-ray detector ever launched.

At UCSC, Atwood is a member of the Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics (SCIPP). Among SCIPP's key roles in the LAT project was the mission-enabling development of the tracker and electronics, led by UCSC physicist Robert Johnson. SCIPP director Steven Ritz, who served as project scientist for Fermi and is currently deputy principal investigator for the LAT, has been involved in the project since 1996.

"This is an important community acknowledgement of the outstanding work done by the LAT team," Ritz said in an email to his colleagues at UCSC. "SCIPP and UCSC can be especially proud of the leading work done by many people here.... Warmest congratulations to Bill [Atwood] who, with Peter Michelson, started the whole thing going back in 1992."

Awarded each year by the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society, the Rossi Prize is the top award for high-energy astrophysics research. Named in honor of Bruno Rossi, an authority on cosmic ray physics and a pioneer in the field of X-ray astronomy, the prize includes an engraved certificate and a $1,500 award. The winners will give a joint lecture at the 219th AAS meeting in Austin, Texas, in January 2012.