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USRA scientists part of a team selected for the prestigious Bruno Rossi Prize in Astrophysics

Columbia, Maryland--February 1, 2018. Five scientists from the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) and their colleagues from the Fermi Gamma Ray Burst Monitor team, led by NASA astrophysicist, Dr. Colleen Wilson-Hodge, received the prestigious Bruno Rossi Prize from the American Astronomical Society.

The team was recognized for the discovery of the first electromagnetic counterpart to the gravitational wave signal from the same cosmic event – the collision of two neutron stars in a distant galaxy.

This discovery confirmed that some short gamma ray bursts are caused by the merging of binary neutron stars that helped spawn the largest world-wide follow up campaign in the history of astronomy. The ability to observe the Universe simultaneously with gravitational waves and electromagnetic waves enables new insights into previously unanswered questions.

The members of the Universities Space Research Association team included William Cleveland, Valerie Connaughton, Adam Goldstein, William Paciesas and Oliver Roberts. Other team members included the University of Alabama in Huntsville, the Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research (CSPAR) and the Department of Space Science.

Dr. Nicholas White, Senior Vice President, Science, at USRA, stated, “Congratulations to Colleen Wilson-Hodge and the Fermi GBM team for this award which recognizes the many years of planning and preparation to catch this breakthrough multi-messenger event.”

Dr. Scott Miller, Director, USRA Science and Technology Institute commented, “This honor is very well deserved by the Fermi GBM team! The team is such an exceptional collaborative group, and the multi-messenger observation of an electromagnetic radiation counterpart to a gravitational wave event is such an exciting scientific achievement, I could not be more happy for their success and for their receipt of the Rossi Prize.”

The Rossi prize is awarded annually by the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society for a significant contribution to High Energy Astrophysics with particular emphasis on recent, original work, and is among the highest honors bestowed in this field.

The prize is in honor of Professor Bruno Rossi, an authority on cosmic Ray physics and a pioneer in the field of X-ray astronomy. It includes an engraved certificate and a $1,500 award. The team will receive the award at the American Astronomical Society’s annual meeting in January 2019.

About USRA

Founded in 1969, under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences at the request of the U.S. Government, the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) is a nonprofit corporation chartered to advance space-related science, technology and engineering. USRA operates scientific institutes and facilities, and conducts other major research and educational programs, under Federal funding. USRA engages the university community and employs in-house scientific leadership, innovative research and development, and project management expertise. More information about USRA is available at www.usra.edu.