Professor Tom Marsh of the Astronomy and Astrophysics group has been awarded the prestigious Herschel Medal by the Royal Astronomical Society.
Professor Tom Marsh has undertaken pioneering research into close binary star systems for the last 30 years. Foremost among his numerous contributions has been the development of the Doppler Tomography technique, which was first described in a landmark paper in 1988 co-authored with Professor Keith Horne. The method uses phase-resolved spectra to construct two-dimensional velocity-space images, allowing astronomers to break the diffraction limit of conventional imaging.
Its application reveals the micro-arcsecond structure of close binary star systems, delivering accurate masses for white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes. The technique unveils the detailed structure of accretion flows, including the intricate structure of accretion streams and hot-spot dynamics. It also led to the discovery of the theoretically anticipated spiralwave patterns that appear in accretion discs during dwarf nova outbursts. Doppler Tomography has been applied to hundreds of binary systems by numerous researchers, leading to a much improved understanding of accretion disc physics.
For these reasons, Professor Marsh is awarded the Herschel Medal.
Dan Bayliss, lead author of the research, commented: "The discovery of NGTS-1b was a complete surprise to us - such massive planets were not thought to exist around such small stars. This is the first exoplanet we have found with our new NGTS facility and we are already challenging the received wisdom of how planets form."
Peter Wheatley added, “Having worked for almost a decade to develop NGTS, it is thrilling to see it picking out new and unexpected types of planets."
A mission to discover and characterise Earth-sized planets and super-Earths orbiting Sun-like stars in the habitable zone of the solar system – scientifically led by the University of Warwick - has been given the go-ahead today by the European Space Agency (ESA).