SPIRE instrument wins Sir Arthur Clarke award

The team behind Herschel’s SPIRE instrument has been awarded the 2013 Sir Arthur Clarke Award for academic study and research. SPIRE is one of three instruments on Herschel, which was launched on 14 May 2009 and operated until the end of its scientific mission on 29 April 2013. The award is in recognition of the scientific achievements of the SPIRE instrument, which was designed, built and operated by an interational team of astronomers, scientists and engineers.

The award was collected on bealf of the team by Tanya Lim, of STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. “A lot of people from both science and engineering disciplines have dedicated up to 15 years of their lives of making SPIRE a scientific success,” explained Tanya. “It is wonderful that we can all share in this award and we are very grateful for receiving it.”

Over nearly four years of operation, SPIRE has revolutionised our understanding of the Universe as seen in far-infrared and sub-millimetre light. It has studied the formation of stars in our galaxy in unprecedented detail, including making a map of the entire Milky Way and the nearby Andromeda Galaxy. It has imaged a quarter of a million galaxies out to distances billions of light years, as well as a whole host of planets, asteroids and comets within our own Solar System.

The team is led by Matt Griffin, of Cardiff University, who commented that “building and operating SPIRE has taken many years of effort by a lot of very talented people in our multi-national team. They are rightly proud of the scientific success of Herschel and SPIRE, and they are delighted to win this award.”

The 2013 winners of the Sir Arthur Clarke Awards. Image courtesy of BIS.

The Sir Arthur Clarke awards are presented annually in recognition of notable or outstanding achievements in, or contributions to, all space activities. They are organised by the Arthur C Clarke Foundation and the British Interplanetary Society, and this year were presented during the conference dinner at the UK Space Conference in Glasgow. The full list of 2013 winners are available on the BIS website.

This is the second Sir Aurthur Clarke Award for the SPIRE team, with Matt Griffin receiving the award for individual achievement in 2010.