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High Energy Astrophysics Division

The AAS High Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD) assists and promotes the advancement of research and the dissemination of knowledge about high energy events, particles, quanta, relativistic gravitational fields, and related phenomena in the astrophysical universe. HEAD also promotes the coordination of this research and knowledge with other branches of science. The division holds Division Meetings every 18 months, as well as sessions within the meetings of the American Astronomical Society. Each year, HEAD awards the Rossi Prize for recent original research in High Energy Astrophysics. At each Division Meeting, HEAD announces the Schramm Award for High Energy Astrophysics Science Journalism, the Mid-Career Prize, and the Dissertation Prize. The electronic HEAD Newsletter is published twice yearly. HEAD membership information is managed within the AAS database at AAS Member Directory.

50th Anniversary of the High Energy Astrophysics Division

2019 marks the 50th Anniversary of the High Energy Astrophysics Division.  We are soliciting HEAD members and others to submit stories, photos, important events, etc.  of the HEAD during the past 50 years. If you have something to contribute, please send it to the HEAD secretary (

Upcoming Meeting:

The 17th Divisional meeting of the High Energy Astrophysics Division will take place 17-21 March 2019, at the Portola Hotel in Monterey, CA. Abstract submission is now open until February 4, 2019, and the registration portal is now open as well.  Early registration ends February 7, 2019 and Regular registration extends from February 8 to March 8, 2019.  Also please see the Dependent Care Grant page if you are interested in applying for a grant to help defray costs of childcare or other dependent care during the meeting.


  • The HEAD Bylaws have been revised. We'll be discussing the changes in the revised bylaws at the upcoming Business Meeting next mont, and members will have the opportunity to vote to approve adoption.  
  • The HEAD 2018 election is now closed.  Frits Paerels has been elected as HEAD Treasurer, Mike Corcoran will continue as HEAD Secretary, and Erin Kara and Alexander van der Horst have been elected as members of the Executive Committee.  Congratulations to Frits, Erin, and Alexander, thanks to all who were willing to be nominated, and thanks to Keith Arnaud, outgoing treasurer, and Niel Brandt and Laura Lopez for their service to the Division. 
  • We're happy to announce the winners of the  HEAD Science prizes for 2019.  Brian Metzger and Dan Kasen have been awarded the Bruno Rossi Prize,  Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz has been awarded the Mid-Career Prize, and Jennifer Barnes has been awarded the Dissertation prize.  Please see the press release for details, and our congratulations to Brian and Dan, Enrico and Jennifer.
  • We are saddened to report the passing of Dr. Riccardo Giacconi on Sunday 9 December 2018 at the age of 87. Riccardo's career as one of the founders of X-ray astronomy is well known and appreciated by all our community.  As noted by Ethan Schreier and Harvey Tananbaum in their memorial, "a very large segment of the astronomy and astrophysics community have based their research on facilities which were conceived, built, and/or directed by Riccardo." Tributes to Riccardo's contributions to science have appeared in the New York Times, the London Telegraph, and other papers the world over.
  • On July 12, 2018, IceCube, together with partner telescopes and observatories on Earth and in space, announced the identification of blazar TXS 0506+056 as the first likely source of high-energy neutrinos and cosmic rays.
  • NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) reentered Earth's atmosphere on April 30, 2018 at about 14:45 UTC (10:45am EDT). RXTE was launched on December 30, 1995 and had an extraordinarily productive run of scientific time-domain discovery until it was decommissioned in January 2012.
  • We are saddened to report the passing of Dr. Yasuo Tanaka on January 18, 2018.  Dr. Tanaka was a pioneer in the field of X-ray astronomy, and led the development and operation of important X-ray satellite observatories like GINGA, TENMA and ASCA. Dr. Tanaka was a member of the Japan Academy. Among many awards, Dr. Tanaka received the 2001 Bruno Rossi Prize with Dr. Andrew Fabian for their discovery of relativistically broadened iron lines in ASCA X-ray spectra of active galactic nuclei, and he was also awarded the James Craig Watson Medal by the National Academy of Sciences in 1994 for "his leadership in X-ray astronomy since its beginning, and his crucial role in enabling the U.S./Japanese collaboration in the ASCA mission, a beautiful example of international cooperation in sciences."
  • We are pleased to announce that the 2018 Bruno Rossi Prize has been awarded to Dr.Colleen Wilson-Hodge and the Fermi GBM Team, "for the discovery of Gamma-rays coincident with a neutron-star merger gravitational wave event. This confirmed that short gamma-ray bursts are produced by binary neutron-star mergers and enabled a global multi-wavelength follow-up campaign." Please see the HEAD Press Release for additional information.
  • HEAD election results are in. Dr. Fiona Harrison has been elected to a 2-year term as HEAD Vice Chair, and Dr. Gabriela Gonzalez and Dr. Laura Brenneman have been elected as members of the HEAD Executive Committee, replacing Dr. Elizabeth Hays and Dr. Colleen Wilson=Hodge.  We thank Dr. Hays and Wilson-Hodge for their service to the Division.  Dr. Robert Petre is the new HEAD Chair, while Dr. Chris Reynolds is now HEAD Past Chair.  We also thank outgoing HEAD Past Chair Nick White for his six years of service to the HEAD, as Vice Chair, Chair and Past Chair.
  • We are saddened to note the passing of Dr. Jeffrey McClintock on Nov 8th, 2017. Dr. McClintock worked at the Center for Astrophysics and was a prime authority on X-ray studies of stellar mass black holes. Dr. McClintock was awarded the 2009 Bruno Rossi Prize along with Charles Bailyn and Ron Remillard for the measurement of the masses of Galactic black holes.  Dr. McClintock also served on the HEAD Executive Council from 1985-1986.
  • NASA has established a study office and study team for LISA, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna.  LISA is a space-based gravitational wave observatory, and was selected by ESA in June 2017 as the 3rd Large mission in the Cosmic Visions Programme.
  • Gravitational and electromagnetic radiation has been detected from a neutron star merger event, GW170817 = GRB170817A.
  • Rainer Weiss, Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne have won the 2017 Nobel Prize in physics “for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves”.
  • NASA has selected six astrophysics Explorers Program proposals for concept studies (3 Medium Class missions and 3 Missions of Opportunity). Arcus, a high energy resolution X-ray observatory was one of the three accepted Medium Class mission proposals.  The Accepted Missions of Opporunity proposals include COSI-X, a balloon-borne experiment to survey the gamma-ray sky at 0.2-5 MeV and ISS-TAO, a wide-field X-ray transient detector to be berthed on the International Space Station.
  • NASA is funding a number of Probe-class mission concept studies to be concluded by early 2019 for inclusion in the 2020 Decadal Survey.  These include the following missions: TAP, the Transient Astrophysics Probe (PI Jordan Camp); the Inflation Probe (PI S. Hanany); AXIS, a high spatial resolution X-ray imager (PI Richard Mushotzky); POEMMA, a multi-messenger astrophysics mission (PI Angela Olinto); and STROBE-X, an X-ray timing experiment (PI Paul Ray). 
  • Dr. Mike Juda was posthumously awarded the NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal for his "critical contributions to the effective operation and outstanding scientific productivity of the Chandra X-ray Observatory."
  • Dr. Morgan Macleod and Dr. Eric Coughlin are recipients of the International Astronomical Union's PhD prize. Dr. Coughlin (UC Berkeley) won the Division D award for his dissertation "The Evolutionary Pathways of Tidal Disruption Events: from Stars to Debris Streams, Accretion Disks, and Relativistic Jets".  Dr. Morgan Macleod (UC Santa Cruz) won the Division G prize for his dissertation "Social Stars: Modeling the Interactive Lives of Stars in Dense Clusters and Binary Systems in the Era of Time Domain Astronomy".
  • China launched the Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT) on June 15 at 03:00 UT  from the 603 Launch Pad of the LC43 Launch Complex. The new orbiting telescope will be used to monitor pulsars and other objects that could help unravel the mystery of their energy sources.  Congratulations to the HXMT team.
  • The Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) X-ray timing observatory was launched as part of the Commercial Resupply Services-11 (CRS-11) mission aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on June 3, 17:07 EDT (21:07 UTC). The Dragon capsule has arrived and has berthed with the ISS, and NICER has now been extracted from the Dragon trunk and has been installed onto the Space Station's ExPRESS Logistics Carrier (ELC 2) Site 7, and is currently being powered up. Please see the NICER Latest News page for updates. Congratulations to the entire NICER team!
  • The 2017 HEAD Dissertation Prize is awarded to Dr. Eric Coughlin for his thesis entitled "The Evolutionary Pathways of Tidal Disruption Events: From Stars to Debris Streams, Accretion Disks, and Relativistic Jets". This work has significantly advanced the standard theory of relativistic hydrodynamics and has yielded substantial new results detailing the physical phenomena which occurs when a star falls into a supermassive black hole. This thesis explores all phases of this process, from the initial disruption of the star, through the formation of an accretion flow onto the black hole, to the eventual acceleration of a relativistic jet, and provides an essential framework for a developing field of high energy astrophysics. (Press Release)
  • The 2017 HEAD Mid-Career Prize has been awarded to Prof. Jon Miller (U. Michigan) for his seminal high resolution X-ray observations of accreting black hole systems. His work has fundamentally advanced our understanding of accretion disk winds and the dynamics of the in-falling material produced by the tidal disruption of a star by a black hole. As the Mid-Career Prize winner, Prof. Miller will give a plenary talk at the Sun Valley HEAD meeting on this topic preceded by a short prize ceremony. Please see the press release for more information.
  • The 2017 David N. Schramm Award for high-energy astrophysics science journalism has been awarded to Nadia Drake for her article entitled "Found! Gravitational Waves, or a Wrinkle in Spacetime", published on the National Geographic's website on February 11, 2016. Please see the press release issued on April 17, 2017 for more information.
  • Dr. Neil Gehrels has been named as a Dan David Prize Laureate for 2017. The award statement reads "For being the principal investigator of NASA's Swift Gamma Ray Burst Mission, which has transformed our view of the transient and variable sky in gamma-rays and in X-rays. Under his leadership, Swift has discovered over 1000 of the enigmatic and extreme cosmic explosions called gamma-ray bursts, and has revealed their properties, distances, and environments, well beyond what was previously known, with profound implications for their understanding. It was with great sorrow that we heard of the passing of Prof. Gehrels. The Dan David Prize joins the Astronomy world in mourning. It is an honor to include him in the Dan David Prize Community of laureates." Dr. Gehrels shares the 2017 prize with Prof. Shri Kulkarni and Prof. Andrzej Udalski.
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