Commission 54 Interferometry Prizes

In 2010 the IAU Commission 54 (Optical and Infrared Interferometry), the Observatoire de la Cote 'Azur (OCA), and the Mt. Wilson Institute (MWI) created two prizes in Interferometry, the Fizeau Prize and the Michelson Prize. The two prizes are similar but complementary, with the Michelson Prize emphasizing application of interferometry to astrophysical research, and the Fizeau Prize emphasizing innovative technical and theoretical work.


2014 Prizes
The Fizeau Lifetime Achievement Prize for 2014 is awarded to Doctor William Tango for his long-term efforts in forwarding the theory, technology and practice of optical interferometry. This is most clearly demonstrated in the publication of the seminal paper on interferometry in 1980, along with many other original works on a broad range of topics in the field. Dr. Tango has been involved in the construction & operation of several major ground based instruments, including most recently the Sydney University Stellar Interferometer (SUSI). The students he has mentored have themselves gone on to positions of leadership in this field, extending even further his wide-ranging influence on optical interferometry.

The Fizeau Investigator Prize for 2014 is awarded to Professor Christoph Leinert for his considerable scientific achievements throughout his career, and specifically for his role as Principal Investigator for the MIDI instrument on the VLTI. His noteworthy career connects to a recurring theme of high angular resolution astronomy, which ultimately led him to long-baseline interferometry at the VLTI. The remarkable success of MIDI can be directly connected to the scientific and technical leadership of Professor Leinert, resulting in breakthroughs in our understanding of active galactic nuclei, protoplanetary disks, and circumstellar envelopes of asymptotic giant branch stars; this leadership has also been instrumental in significantly expanding the interferometry user community. Professor Leinert's success with the VLTI is inspiring the next generation of researchers and instrumentation to build on these successes.

The Michelson Investigator Prize for 2014 is awarded to Professor John Monnier for his extensive and varied contributions. John's work in interferometry continues a rich and vigorous career in high angular resolution methods and applications. His leadership in developing the unique Michigan InfraRed Combiner, and its use at the CHARA Array in interferometric imaging, has led the community in delivering on the promise of optical interferometry to science. His group’s imagery of rapidly rotating stars has excited the imagination of scientists and public alike, and has given physicists new constraints on stellar interior structure. This Prize also recognizes earlier work - John's heavily cited publications on measurements of Young Stellar Objects. The first interferometric YSO angular diameters are a fundamental contribution to the understanding of preplanetary disks, essential for interpretation of measurements of many types, guiding theoretical understanding and constraining modeling of the planet formation zone.

2012 Prizes
The Fizeau Lifetime Achievement Prize for 2012 is awarded to Professor Charles Hard Townes for his long-term committment to and support of optical interferometry, especially in the mid-infrared as evidenced by his work on the McMath prototype and Berkeley Infrared Spatial Interferometers. Professor Townes' development of heterodyne techniques, high-spectral resolution and closure phases at the ISI has produced dozens of highly cited and transformative papers in the studies of dust production and time-evolution of evolved stars. Further, Professor Townes' support and mentoring of 27 doctoral students and dozens of postdocs and junior colleagues, many of whom are well-established interferometrists and active researchers today, will leave an enduring legacy for the field of optical/infrared interferometry.

The Michelson Investigator Prize for 2012 is awarded to Doctor Olivier Chesneau for his contributions to optical interferometry and to stellar astrophysics. Since 1998 Olivier has participated in integration, test, and software development for premier interferometric instruments - MIDI and MATISSE on the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, VEGA on the GI2T and CHARA interferometers. With them he has studied stellar environments - disks, winds, nebulae - in young, early type and evolved stars through the latest stages of stellar evolution. His great intuition, dedication to astronomy, and skills in astrophysics and optical interferometry as well as other high angular resolution techniques, contribute to his numerous collaborations, with 74 papers in refereed journals and 1500 citations.

2010 Prizes
The Fizeau Lifetime Achievement Prize for 2010 is awarded to Professor Antoine Labeyrie for his invention of speckle interferometry, the development of the I2T and GI2T interferometers, and contributions to the development and implementation of the VLTI. Prof. Labeyrie's innovative genius challenges conventional wisdom with ideas such as the hypertelescope, laser-trapped space mirrors, and pupil densification; his visionary work has meant much to the community, and has been a forceful reminder that our scientific ambitions are limited only by our imaginations.

The Michelson Lifetime Achievement Prize for 2010 is awarded to Doctor Michael Shao for his pioneering work on ground-based and space-based interferometers, including the Mark I, Mark II, Mark III, Palomar Testbed Interferometer, Keck Interferometer, and Space Interferometry Mission. Dr. Shao has been a prominent leader in the interferometry community, developing new avenues of research, including narrow-angle astrometry and nulling.

The formal public announcement for the 2010 Prizes was made June 30, 2010, in San Diego, at a special evening session of the SPIE conference on "Optical and Infrared Interferometry II." The Michelson Prize is sponsored by the Mount Wilson Institute, and the Fizeau Prize is sponsored by the Observatoire de la Cote d'Azur, in a joint program with Commission 54. Each awardee received a certificate of award and an honorarium.