National prize for St Andrews star-gazer

Wednesday 31 March 2004

The University of St Andrews Head of Astronomy has been awarded a prestigious prize by the Royal Astronomical Society.

Professor Keith Horne has been presented with the Herschel Medal, awarded once every three years. The award was presented at today’s UK National Astronomy Meeting and reflects Professor Horne’s world- renowned research in observational astrophysics.

The citation reads – “Keith Horne moved from the USA to the UK in 1994 to take up the post of Professor of Astronomy at the University of St Andrews. Keith Horne is widely recognised as one of the world’s leading observational astronomers in the field of cataclysmic variable stars (CVs). Through his development and application of astro-tomographic techniques, he has revolutionised our understanding of accretion discs in these objects. His influence has been so great that the majority of modern observational papers on CVs include at least one of his algorithms as part of the data reduction/analysis, and intimate knowledge of Keith’s work is almost a prerequisite of successful PhDs in the subject. His interests extend far beyond CVs; for example he has been responsible for the first surface maps of Pluto and Charon; a new method of spectral extraction (now used by virtually all the astronomers in the world); the first light-travel-time delay maps of black-hole X-ray binaries; the use of echo mapping in Active Galactic Nuclei to determine the nature of accretion onto the central source and the value of Hubble’s constant; and the first detection of light from an extra- solar planet. Any one of these contributions is impressive enough, but taken collectively, the exceptional nature of his work becomes apparent. He is therefore a most appropriate and worthy recipient of the Herschel Medal”.

As well as his research activities, Keith is also a valued member of the teaching staff at St Andrews. This year he is lecturing on the level one “Stars and Astrophysics” course and on three advanced modules for honours astronomy students.


Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews For more information, please contact Contact Claire Grainger, Press Officer – 01334 462530, 07730 415 015 or cg24@st-; Ref: press releases/keithhorne View the latest University news at

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