AwardCaroline Herschel Medal for Heidelberg Astrophysicist

8 April 2022

Prof. Dr Eva Grebel is the first to win the new medal awarded jointly by the Royal Astronomical Society and the German Astronomical Society

The Caroline Herschel Medal is to go to Prof. Dr Eva Grebel, an astrophysicist at Heidelberg University, in recognition of her outstanding scientific contribution to understanding the evolution of galaxies and galactic archaeology. The director of the university’s Institute for Astronomical Computing will be the first to receive the new joint award from the Royal Astronomical Society and German Astronomical Society, which was introduced last year by the British government in honour of former Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel. Eva Grebel has inspired students and young researchers as a role model, outstanding mentor and leader. “That makes her the ideal recipient of the first Caroline Herschel Medal,” say the two astronomical societies in their motivation for the award.

Prof. Dr. Eva Grebel

Eva Grebel’s research focuses on how galaxies form and evolve, using methods of galactic archaeology to investigate the remnants of stellar populations. She is regarded as a pioneer of “near-field cosmology”, where studying the evolutionary history of nearby galaxies contributes to understanding the evolution of the universe as a whole. With her research group she discovered a new class of galaxies now known as “ultra-faint dwarf galaxies”. By studying these and exploring more dwarf galaxies in orbit around the Andromeda Galaxy, she produced evidence of the role of unseen “dark matter” in galaxy formation. In addition, Prof. Grebel pioneered the use of pulsating variable stars to understand the three-dimensional structure of the Milky Way and its neighbouring galaxies.

Eva Grebel studied astronomy at the University of Bonn, where she earned her doctorate in 1995. Then she had post-doctoral positions at the University of Würzburg and universities in the United States before returning to Europe in 2000. After working as a research group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, in 2003 she took up a professorship at the University of Basel (Switzerland). Since 2007 Prof. Grebel has taught and done research at the Centre for Astronomy of Heidelberg University, to which the Institute for Astronomical Computing belongs. She is spokesperson of Collaborative Research Centre 881, “The Milky Way System”. Eva Grebel has received many prizes and honours for her research, including the research prize of the Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation and the science prize of the Hector Foundation. She is a member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, and the Hector Fellow Academy.

The new award is called after Caroline Herschel (1750 to 1848), a renowned astronomer of the late 18th and early 19th century. Born in Hanover, she later moved to Britain with her brother William, the first president of the Royal Astronomical Society. She discovered eight comets, also revising and improving catalogues of stars, clusters and nebulae. The new medal honours her work and, at the same time, the many years of intensive scientific cooperation between Germany and the United Kingdom. The first Caroline Herschel Medal will be presented to Prof. Grebel during the annual conference of the German Astronomical Society in Bremen in September.