Portretfoto Conny Aerts
Portretfoto Conny Aerts

Conny Aerts receives Crafoord Prize for astronomy

Professor of Asteroseismology Conny Aerts, affiliated with Radboud University and KU Leuven, has been awarded the Crafoord Prize for astronomy. The Crafoord Prize is one of the most prestigious scientific awards in the fields of mathematics, astronomy, geology, life sciences, and polyarthritis.
In addition to Aerts, Douglas Gough (emeritus professor at the University of Cambridge) and Jørgen Christensen-Dalsgaard (emeritus professor at the University of Aarhus) also received the prize. The laureates are awarded for 'developing the methods of asteroseismology and their application to studying the interior of the sun and other stars.'

Seismologists learn about the Earth's interior by investigating how it vibrates during earthquakes. The three laureates discovered that similar methods are applicable in astronomy. The interior of the sun and stars can be explored by studying movements on their surfaces caused by internal vibrations similar to sound waves. This is called asteroseismology.

Better understanding of stars and galaxies

Conny Aerts is one of the pioneers in asteroseismology. She is known for her research on stars that are hotter and heavier than the sun. While her fellow laureates Gough and Christensen-Dalsgaard developed asteroseismology on the sun and stars of low mass, Aerts did this as the first researcher for massive stars. Together with her team, she studied surface movements on many such distant stars and developed new methods for this. As a result, they could measure changes in the brightness of stars and thus help determine their size, composition, and age.

Aerts' work also confirmed that giant stars can have shells with changing chemistry around their cores. She demonstrated the movements in these shells, allowing scientists to use asteroseismology to see which elements make up these shells. Overall, new knowledge about these studied stars will lead to a better understanding of stars, galaxies, and the formation of galaxies.

Crafoord Prize

The Crafoord Prize is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the organization also responsible for awarding the Nobel Prizes. The prize, worth 6 million Swedish Kronor (approximately 500,000 euros), will be presented in May in Sweden, by Swedish Crown Princess Victoria.

"This prize came out of the blue and is a fantastic recognition that underscores the importance of asteroseismology in astronomy. I hope it is also an encouragement for the growing international community of young asteroseismologists who are working together to create ever better star models. It is a great honor to be chosen as a representative of this community, and I plan to spend part of the prize on supporting young asteroseismologists," says Conny Aerts in response.