Joe Burns, professor of astronomy, professor of theoretical and applied mechanics and the Irving Porter Church Professor of Engineering, has been named an honorary fellow of Britain's Royal Astronomical Society in recognition of his contributions to the field of astronomy. He is one of six fellows recognized this year worldwide.
Burns, who served as vice provost of physical sciences and engineering from 2003 to 2008 and as editor of the planetary science journal Icarus from 1980 to 1997, uses the principles of mechanics and classical physics to understand the structure of the solar system. Currently at work on NASA's Cassini mission studying Saturn's ring system, he and colleagues are studying the processes that form planetary rings -- knowledge that can be used to understand how solar systems form from protoplanetary disks.
Images of Saturn, its moons and its rings, taken by the Cassini spacecraft and prepared and analyzed by Burns and colleagues, remain on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. The New York exhibit, which was scheduled to close this month, has been extended until July 2009; the Washington exhibit opened Feb. 2 and is scheduled to run until May 29.
Founded in 1820, the Royal Astronomical Society encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. Its more than 3,000 members include scientists in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.