30 September 2009

The Shaw Laureate in Astronomy 2009 to Speak at CUHK on
The Formation of Stars and Planetary Systems Next Thursday

Professor Frank H Shu, the Shaw Laureate in Astronomy, will speak on ‘The Formation of Stars and Planetary Systems’ next Thursday (8 October) at Shaw College of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK).

The Shaw Prize in Astronomy was awarded to Professor Frank H Shu, University Professor of the ten-campus University of California System, USA in recognition of his outstanding life-time contributions in theoretical astronomy. Professor Shu made his most important contributions in the area of star formation. Stars are the basic building blocks of galaxies, the predominant beacons of visible light from remote cosmic corners to our immediate neighborhood, and the sources of complex nuclei which are the essential ingredients of life and its supporting planetary habitats. In the forefront quests to investigate the emergence of structure on galactic scales and beyond as well as the origin of the solar system, a thorough understanding of the star formation process is essential.

He established a standard star-formation model, in which gravity, magnetic fields and turbulence, together influence the flow of gas from the diffuse interstellar medium to dense cores of molecular clouds. As they collapse under the influence of gravity, clouds spin up and swirl into disks which channel gas to congregate at their centres to become emerging stars.

Professor Shu's theory is also relevant to the origin of the solar system. He was the first to propose that protostellar disks reflect the light from the stars at their centre and are evaporated by it over a few million years. Most recently, he showed that some relics of smallest planet building blocks are repeatedly condensed and melted down in the proximity of the infant Sun, redistributed and moulded into primitive meteorites throughout the solar system. This theoretical prediction was recently vindicated by the fragments of Comet Wild 2 which were collected and brought back to Earth by a NASA sample-return star-dust mission.

The Shaw Prize is an international award to honour individuals who are currently active in their respective fields and who have achieved distinguished and significant advances, who have made outstanding contributions in culture and the arts, or who in other domains have achieved excellence. The award is dedicated to furthering societal progress, enhancing quality of life, and enriching humanity’s spiritual civilization. Preference will be given to individuals whose significant work was recently achieved.

The Shaw Prize was established under the auspices of Mr. Run Run Shaw in November 2002. The Shaw Prize for 2009 consists of three awards: the Prize in Astronomy, the Prize in Life Science and Medicine, and the Prize in Mathematical Sciences. This is the sixth year that the Prize has been awarded.

The lecture will be conducted in English. Members of the public are welcome to join the lecture. For registration, please contact Ms Siu at 2609 7311. Live broadcast will be available on the university website.

Professor Frank H Shu
Professor Frank H Shu