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2018 Bruno Rossi Prize

Media Contact:
Megan Watzke
HEAD Press Officer




The top prize in high-energy astrophysics has been awarded to Dr. Colleen Wilson-Hodge of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and the Fermi Gamma-Ray Burst Monitor (GBM) team.

The High Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD) of the American Astronomical Society awards the Rossi Prize in recognition of significant contributions as well as recent and original work in high-energy astrophysics. The 2018 Rossi Prize recognizes 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.

At 8:41 am EDT on August 17, 2017, the gravitational wave source, GW170817, was detected with the advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO. Two seconds later NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) detected and localized a weak pulse of gamma rays. GBM automatically announced the gamma-ray burst 14 seconds after detection, before anyone knew this event was special. This detection encouraged astronomers to look for the aftermath of the explosion with telescopes spanning the electromagnetic spectrum.

“This discovery was the work of many people and they all are part of this award. It would not have been possible without the numerous and amazing contributions of the entire Fermi GBM team along with our LIGO/Virgo collaborators, and the Fermi project,” said Wilson-Hodge, who is the principal investigator for GBM. “The ability to observe the universe simultaneously with gravitational waves and electromagnetic waves promises to spark new insights and reveal long-sought-after answers to questions in astronomy and physics. We look forward to advancing into this burgeoning frontier of multimessenger astrophysics.”

The prize is in honor of Professor Bruno Rossi, an authority on cosmic ray physics and a pioneer in the field of X-ray astronomy. The Rossi Prize includes an engraved certificate and a $1,500 award. Dr. Wilson-Hodge will give a lecture at the 233rd AAS meeting in Seattle, WA, in January 2019.

Additional information on the Rossi Prize, including previous winners, can be found at: