Berkeley 2023 Prize awarded to European Gaia collaboration

Prix & Distinctions Terre et Univers

Awarded annually by the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the Berkeley 2023 Prize, announced on November 9, 2022, rewards the European Gaia Consortium, in which researchers and engineers from the UTINAM/OSU THETA Institute (CNRS/UFC) participate.

The Berkeley 2023 Prize is awarded to the Gaia collaboration for enabling a multidimensional map of the Milky Way that is transforming the view of our Galaxy. Since its launch in 2013, the European Space Agency's Gaia satellite has recorded the positions, distances, colors, and proper motions for nearly two billion stars in our galaxy.

According to the award statement, "The three data catalogs published by the Gaia consortium will long be considered major events in the history of astronomy, sparking a global partnership to better understand the origin, structure, and fate of our home galaxy."

The mission's three data releases to date encompass the largest low-resolution spectroscopic and radial velocity studies in history, capturing detailed information and mapping approximately 1.8 billion Milky Way stars, including 10 million variable stars and 813,000 binary systems. In addition, the mission is enabling advances in extragalactic and solar system science: it has catalogued 3 million galaxies, 2 million quasars (bright, distant galactic nuclei), and 156,000 solar system objects, including near-Earth and main-belt asteroids and trans-Neptunian objects. 

The third full catalog of Gaia data, which was released on June 13, 2022, was accompanied by nearly 50 scientific papers from the Gaia collaboration, reflecting the mission's impact on the science of astronomy. This huge body of work includes the most cited papers in all of astronomy over the past year.

The Gaia data catalogs are produced by the Gaia Data Processing And Analysis (DPAC) Consortium, a collaboration of about 450 European scientists and engineers.

"The AAS and the New York Community Trust extend their gratitude and congratulations to the hundreds of scientists, engineers, and program/technical/support staff at the European Space Agency and far beyond for bringing this transformative mission to life. Gaia will forever remain a landmark achievement in the history of human cosmic exploration," the AAS vice presidents commented in a statement.

The Berkeley Prize at a glance

Awarded annually since 2011 by the American Astronomical Society (AAS) and supported by a grant from the New York Community Trust, the Berkeley Prize includes a financial award and an invitation to give the closing plenary lecture at the AAS Winter Meeting, often referred to as the "Super Bowl of Astronomy." The 241st AAS meeting will be held in Seattle, Washington, January 8-12, 2023.