ANU professor awarded top American astronomy prize

Australian astronomer Professor Ken Freeman has been awarded the American Astronomical Society’s top prize. The prestigious…

Australian astronomer Professor Ken Freeman has won a major American astronomy prize. AAP

Australian astronomer Professor Ken Freeman has been awarded the American Astronomical Society’s top prize.

The prestigious Henry Norris Russell Lectureship was awarded to Professor Freeman for his work exploring the structure and dynamics of our Galaxy and other galaxies.

Professor Freeman, who has worked in the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Australian National University for the past 40 years, said he was honoured to receive the award.

“I never really expected that this would come off. If you look at the list, the prize has been going since 1946, it’s a bit of a who’s who of astronomy.”

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Young congratulated Professor Freeman on the award.

“Professor Freeman has played a pivotal role in directing the course of astrophysical study both in Australia and internationally,” Professor Young said

“He is a deserving recipient of this prestigious award.”

The American Astronomical Society said Professor Freeman’s generous interactions with PhD students and countless colleagues meant his influence on galactic and extragalactic astronomy had extended far beyond his own research.

Professor Freeman is currently leading a team of astronomers seeking to map out how our the Milky Way was assembled.

“We’re at a very exciting point in that now because we’re about to start the big observational survey that we need to do this,” he said.

The team will use a $15 million instrument to measure the chemical properties of stars, trying to find groups of stars that were born together, in a process Process Freeman called “chemical tagging”.

“It’s never been done before so were quite excited about it.”

Professor Freeman was awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science last year.