iau2205 — Press Release

2022 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics recipients Conny Aerts, Jørgen Christensen-Dalsgaard and Roger Ulrich
1 June 2022
2022 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics Awarded to Conny Aerts, Jørgen Christensen-Dalsgaard and Roger Ulrich
Three scientists share the award for their pioneering work in the development of helioseismology and asteroseismology

The 2022 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics has been awarded to Conny Aerts, Jørgen Christensen-Dalsgaard and Roger Ulrich for the development of methods that allow precise study of the interiors of stars. The Kavli Prize is awarded every two years to scientists who have made influential contributions to astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience, developing our understanding of nature at the largest, smallest and most complex scales. The prizes are awarded by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research and the Kavli Foundation.

We honour the 2022 Kavli Prize Laureates for their transformative contributions to science and society. Their discoveries created entirely new fields, opened up new realms of scientific research and advanced science for the benefit of humankind,” says Lise Øvreås, president of The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.

With their breakthrough research, the three recipients of the astrophysics prize have laid the foundations of solar and stellar structure theory and revolutionised our understanding of the interiors of stars.

Roger Ulrich (USA) was the first to show that the oscillations observed on the solar surface can be used to make precise measurements of the characteristics of the Sun’s interior and developed a mathematical model, giving the field of helioseismology a theoretical foundation. He also demonstrated that the Sun behaves like a musical instrument, ringing with large numbers of acoustic waves, each having a resonant frequency — just like an organ pipe or a plucked violin string. His demonstration of the agreement between solar calculations and observations was a key ingredient in convincing physicists that the solar neutrino problem could only be solved by revising standard electroweak theory.

Jørgen Christensen-Dalsgaard (Denmark) further developed the topic of helioseismology and played a major role in the development of asteroseismology, studying low-mass cool stars and the Sun. He determined the sound speed profile throughout the Sun, its two-dimensional rotation map, its helium content, and the level of helium settling at the base of its convection zone. He also saw the great potential of applying this science to other stars in the Milky Way, and this has now been realised with the launch of the CoRoT, Kepler, and TESS planet finding missions.

Conny Aerts (Belgium) is a leading figure in asteroseismology and is widely known for her work on massive hot stars. She extended the research to stars of all masses in various evolutionary stages, using both ground- and space-based observations, and developed clever methods to identify pulsation modes in massive stars, opening the door to the modelling of their interiors. Aerts also pioneered a rigorous methodology to identify and model gravito-inertial modes in rapidly rotating stars, and the first quantitative estimates of certain stellar cores and interactions, leading to significant improvements in stellar evolution theory.

Pairing the study of oscillations on the Sun’s and other stellar surfaces with mathematical modelling, the laureates have combined data analysis methods (such as time series analysis, pattern recognition, and statistical modelling) with the physics and chemistry of thermodynamics, nuclear and atomic physics, and quantum mechanics. The bridging of these scientific fields allows for extraordinarily precise determination of the physical properties of stellar interiors. 

These three scientists are the pioneers of helioseismology and asteroseismology and span the development of these fields,” says Viggo Hansteen, Chair of the Astrophysics Committee. “All three figured out a way to look at the inside of different types of stars and developed tools to study them precisely.”

The Kavli Prize Laureates will be celebrated in Oslo, Norway, in a ceremony presided over by His Majesty King Harald followed by a banquet at the Oslo City Hall, the venue of the Nobel Peace Prize.

More information

The IAU is the international astronomical organisation that brings together more than 12 000 active professional astronomers from more than 100 countries worldwide. Its mission is to promote and safeguard astronomy in all its aspects, including research, communication, education and development, through international cooperation. The IAU also serves as the internationally recognised authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and the surface features on them. Founded in 1919, the IAU is the world's largest professional body for astronomers.



Marina Tofting
The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters
Tel: +47 938 66 312
Email: marina.tofting@dnva.no

Stacey Bailey
The Kavli Foundation
United States
Tel: +310 739 2859
Email: sbailey@kavlifoundation.org

Lars Lindberg Christensen
IAU Director of Communications
Cell: +1 520 461 0433/+49 173 38 72 621
Email: lars.christensen@noirlab.edu


2022 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics recipients Conny Aerts, Jørgen Christensen-Dalsgaard and Roger Ulrich