Three astrophysicists share 2010 Kavli Prizes for their telescope designs

June 4, 2010
Oslo, Norway--Three astrophysicists were among the eight scientists recognized with the award of the million-dollar Kavli Prizes.

Oslo, Norway--Three astrophysicists were among the eight scientists recognized with the award of the million-dollar Kavli Prizes. The laureates were chosen for research in astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience whose discoveries have transformed our knowledge of basic units of matter, laid the foundations for the field of nanotechnology, revealed the molecular basis for the transfer of brain signals and other physiological functions, and made possible the building of telescopes that can see deeper into space and further back in time.

These are the second group of recipients of the biennial Kavli Prizes, following the launch of the awards in 2008. They were set up to recognize outstanding scientific research, honor highly creative scientists, promote public understanding of scientists and their work, and to encourage international scientific cooperation. The Prizes are a partnership of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, The Kavli Foundation, and the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research.

Jerry Nelson, of the University of California, Santa Cruz, US, Ray Wilson, formerly of Imperial College London and the European Southern Observatory, and Roger Angel, of the University of Arizona, Tucson, US, share the Kavli Prize in Astrophysics for their respective innovations in the field of telescope design that have allowed us glimpses of ever more distant and ancient objects and events in the remote corners of the Universe.

Angel created mirrors made of cheap glass and molded them to incorporate a honeycomb pattern of holes, to reduce their weight and increase their rigidity, allowing the building of larger telescopes.

Approaching the same problem from a different direction, Wilson developed computer-controlled actuators to make small constant changes to telescope mirror shapes to correct for distortions caused by gravity, wind and temperature, during use.

Nelson meanwhile abandoned the idea of using a single large mirror in favor of a system comprising of multiple small hexagonal mirror tiles that are carefully shaped and controlled by computerized actuators to constantly maintain the ideal reflecting surface.

Kavli prize winners in the nanoscience and neuroscience categories are detailed at

The laureates will each receive a scroll, a gold medal and share of the $1,000,000 prize for each of the three fields.

SOURCE: The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters;

--Posted by Gail Overton; [email protected];

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