|Home > Public Information > Public Releases > SAURON Team Gets the 2013 Group Achievement Award of the Royal Astronomical Society|
ING web news release|
25 Jan, 2013
SAURON Team Gets the 2013 Group Achievement Award of the Royal Astronomical Society
On Friday 11 January 2013 the Royal Astronomical Society (UK) awarded the 2013 RAS ‘A’ Group award to the SAURON team. The prize, which honours groups that have made an outstanding contribution to astronomy, will be presented at the 2013 National Astronomy Meeting (NAM 2013) to be held in St Andrews, Scotland, in July. SAURON is an integral field spectrograph with a 33 x 44 arcseconds field of view (roughly 1/110th x 1/80th degree) at the 4.2m William Herschel Telescope. SAURON saw first light in 1999. Although it can be used for other astrophysical investigations, the particular science focus of the team that set up the SAURON project was understanding the evolution of elliptical galaxies, via detailed observations of samples of nearby examples of these objects.
The SAURON initiative combines an impressive and optimised instrument design with the careful use of models and simulations to interpret the results and a high degree of organization across the collaboration. Whereas many previous projects of this type have foundered under the sheer volume of the data and the complexity of the analysis task, the SAURON team has shown impressive efficiency in publishing world-leading science results in a timely manner.
The project started with a survey of 72 galaxies (48 early-type and 24 spirals). It was followed by a larger, complete survey, named ATLAS3D, covering 260 galaxies. To date, the SAURON team has published over 60 papers that have attracted more than 3500 citations; 8 of the SAURON-based papers have more than 100 citations each.
One of the most important, and surprising, results of the SAURON survey is that elliptical galaxies show
a lot of structure in their internal velocity fields. For example, in NGC 4365, a large elliptical galaxy in
the Virgo cluster, it was shown that the inner regions of the galaxy rotate perpendicular to the stars
Looking at the whole sample, it was shown that the two-dimensional stellar kinematics of early-type galaxies come in two broad flavours, depending on whether they exhibit clear large-scale rotation or not.
Other science highlights include the finding that the warm gas in a substantial fraction of elliptical galaxies must have an external origin; a clear demonstration that young stellar populations are more prevalent in lower mass galaxies, direct proof that some bulges of spiral galaxies are rotating fast, and a fundamental revision of the galaxy classification scheme, based on a comparison between the movement of stars in galaxies and their shapes.
SAURON has been a private instrument at the WHT for 13 years, and is still in use by scientists from the UK, the Netherlands and Spain. It is open to the whole community on a collaborative basis.
|Top | Back|