May 24, 2001

Hans Bethe awarded Astronomical Society of the Pacific gold medal

Hans Bethe

Nobel laureate Hans Bethe, emeritus professor of physics at Cornell University and one of the world's most honored scientists, has been named the winner of the prestigious Bruce Gold Medal by the Astronomical Society of the PaciÞc (ASP), one of America's oldest and largest astronomy organizations.

The Catherine Wolfe Bruce Gold Medal is the ASP's highest honor, and one of the most coveted awards in the astronomical community. It is presented for a lifetime of outstanding research in astronomy.

The society noted that Bethe, who at the age of nearly 95 is still active in research, is being recognized for his fundamental and lifelong contributions to the understanding of how stars produce energy. Working with other physicists in the 1930s, Bethe calculated the nuclear fusion reactions that power stars like the sun. He explained how hydrogen nuclei fuse to form helium nuclei, giving off energy in the process, and how more massive stars generate energy through the carbon cycle. Subsequent research by Bethe helped astronomers better understand how massive stars explode at the end of their lives as supernovae. For these and other contributions, Bethe was awarded the 1967 Nobel Prize in physics.

Each year, the ASP's board of directors asks various individuals and institutions to nominate people for these awards. The ASP awards recognize meritorious work by professional and amateur astronomers, science educators and those who engage in public outreach. The ASP will present the awards at its annual meeting banquet at the Radisson Riverfront Hotel, St. Paul, Minn., Saturday, July 14.