Dark matter researcher gets top honour in science awards

31 May 2013

Professor Ken Freeman from The Australian National University has been awarded the Australian Academy of Science’s highest honour for research in the physical sciences, the Matthew Flinders Medal.

The award will be given to Professor Freeman during the Australian Academy of Science’s annual event, Science at the Shine Dome today, for his work in the field of astronomy studying dark matter in galaxies.

“The nature of dark matter remains one of the great problems of contemporary astrophysics,” Professor Freeman said.

“In large galaxies like our Milky Way, only about five per cent of the mass is in the form of visible stars and gas.  The remaining 95 per cent is made up of dark matter, that doesn’t give off any known radiation; it is detectable only through its gravitational field and is otherwise invisible.

“Depending on the nature of dark matter, there is a faint hope it might give off some detectable gamma rays as the dark matter particles annihilate”.

Professor Freeman was one of the first scientists to point out that spiral galaxies contained a large fraction of dark matter in the 1970s and has continued to study the density of dark matter in dwarf galaxies, as well as the formation and dynamics of the Milky Way.

The Matthew Flinders Medal will go alongside Professor Freeman’s other accolades that includes the Dannie Heineman prize of the American Institute of Physics and the American Astronomical Society (1999), the Prime Minister’s Science Prize (2012) and the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship of the American Astronomical Society.

He has been a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science since 1981 and a Fellow of the Royal Society of London since 1998.

Professor Freeman and other awardees present their work at the Australian Academy of Science’s Shine Dome today.

See the full list of award winners online at www.science.org.au/events/sats/sats2013/awards.html

The full program is available at http://science.org.au/events/sats/sats2013/documents/SATS2013-program.pdf