Sami K. Solanki wins Distinguished Scientist Medal

Prestigious award for his achievements in the field of solar-terrestrial physics is presented to Sami K. Solanki

June 08, 2016

The Scientific Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics (SCOSTEP) is an international committee that initiates projects and programs that cross over regional boundaries as well as scientific disciplines. It biennially awards the Distinguished Science Award to scientists who have made an outstanding contribution to the field of solar-terrestrial science. This year, Sami K. Solanki, director at the Max-Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Göttingen was unanimously selected to be the recipient of the this prestigious award, honoring his achievements  in the understanding of the solar influence on Earth’s climate. The medal was presented at the award ceremony during the 1st VarSITI General Symposium in Bulgaria, on June 6.

Understanding and modelling Earth’s climate and its global change of is of great importance for mankind. In order to make reliable predictions of climate change it is necessary to evaluate the influence of the Sun. The Sun’s activity, which manifests itself for example in the presence of sunspots, is known to change. Also the amount of light that it shines on the Earth is variable on several time scales, but the mechanisms that cause these changes have long been unknown. Many aspects of Sami K. Solankis work have contributed to approaching the answers to those questions.

Decisive for winning the prize was according to the committee among the development of models that have clearly proven the magnetic field at the Sun’s surface to be the source of irradiance variations on long time scales. The models developed by Solanki are the only ones that can reproduce the observed changes in the Sun’s light output during the last three activity minima, including the most recent, comparatively deep minimum in 2008. Also his work that led to the reconstruction of solar activity in historic and prehistoric times is honored with the Distinguished Scientist Award. Thanks to his work the past activity of the Sun was derived from radionuclides measured on Earth.

Besides his scientific achievements, also his extensive publication record, his teaching activities, his dedicated support of young researchers and his involvement in numerous space missions impressed the committee. Solanki published 400 scientific articles in refereed scientific journals. He founded the International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS) for Solar System Science and still serves as its spokesperson. 157 PhD students have graduated already through this program.

Recently, Sami K. Solanki won an European Research Council (ERC) grant worth 2.5 million Euro for his project “Solar magnetic field and its influence on solar variability and activity. This project aims to clarify further questions concerning the Sun’s variability, especially about the influence of the small-scale magnetic fields.

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