A mathematician at the University of St Andrews has been presented with a prestigious award by the Anglican Archbishop of Ireland.
Professor Eric Priest, of the University’s Mathematics Department, was presented with the Robinson Medal by Lord Eames at a ceremony in Armagh recently. The medal, named after Archbishop Richard Robinson, the founder of Armagh Observatory, was given in recognition of Professor Priest’s work as an international expert in solar physics, especially the inter-relations between the ionised atmosphere of the Sun and its magnetic field.
The researcher is especially concerned with mechanisms for heating the outer atmosphere or corona of the Sun to multi-million- degree temperatures and with the way that solar flares occur.
During his visit to Armagh, Professor Priest delivered a lecture to 150 local schoolchildren who impressed him with a lively array of questions afterwards. He also gave the Robinson Lecture, a public lecture held biennially in memory of Archbishop Robinson.
Professor Priest’s Robinson lecture was entitled “Our Enigmatic Sun”. He remarked, “For centuries, humankind worshipped the Sun in societies such as those of ancient Egypt, and today modern observations from space have shown that the Sun is much more puzzling than we realised before. Indeed, most of the fundamental properties of the Sun, which have important implications for the rest of astronomy, have not yet been fully understood.”
The lecture introduced his audience to the main properties of the Sun and many of the modern puzzles using the latest images and movies. It described a trip that Professor Priest and his wife Clare took to Egypt to watch an eclipse of the Sun, and also gave an account of huge ejections of mass from the Sun and their effects on the Earth.
Professor Priest is a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a Member of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences. A past chair of the Science Committee of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, Professor Priest is currently Vice-President of the Royal Astronomical Society. He has written over 350 research papers and is the author of two monographs and editor of fifteen books.
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