Professor Mike Hapgood from RAL Space, an advisor to the government on the huge disruption solar storms can cause, has won the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) Service Award. Professor Hapgood, Head of the Space Environment Group at RAL Space, has been active in providing advice to the UK government on the risks of space weather which have been known to cause power outages, resulting in the loss of millions to businesses. The internationally recognised expert in space weather leads the UK Space Environment Impacts Expert Group, the group of UK scientists and engineers established in 2010 to act as a source of advice on space weather and its impacts. The award was announced by RAS President David Southwood on Friday 11th January 2013 and will be presented to Mike at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting at St Andrews in July 2013.
RAS states that the award is for an ‘individual who, through outstanding or exceptional work, has promoted, facilitated or encouraged the sciences of astronomy, geophysics, or solar-system sciences and developed their role in the life of the nation, often beyond the requirements of his or her paid position’. Mike Hapgood received the honour for his exceptional contribution to geophysics through which he has ‘demonstrated a deep interest in understanding how the science links to practical impacts’.
A further section of the RAS citation reads: ‘Over the past decade he [Professor Hapgood] has led several major ESA space weather studies and served as chair of ESA’s space weather working Team (2006-2009). In the latter role he led European lobbying actions that supported the inclusion of space weather in the 2010 Framework 7 call. He also has good links with US experts and has played a leading role in organising a recent series of UK-US space weather workshops that have promoted efforts to coordinate space weather research, infrastructure and policy’. One of these workshops was hosted at STFC's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, home to RAL Space. In addition Professor Hapgood gave the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s 2011 Kelvin Lecture: ‘Space Weather: Nature’s Electromagnetic Hazard’.
Mike, who is also Professor at Lancaster University, working with the Space Plasma Environment and Radio Science group in the university’s physics department, said: "I am honoured to given this award by RAS. It is an award that means a lot to me since it recognises how the range of science covered by RAS has real meaning for wider society. Joining the company of some of its previous recipients makes the award even more special”.
Space weather and in particular coronal mass ejections (violent eruptions from the Sun’s atmosphere) can cause huge disruption to many highly technological systems on Earth. In 1989, five million people were left without electricity, causing billions of dollars in damages and losses to business, as Earth experienced its largest geomagnetic storm in decades.
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