LANL Physicist Michelle Thomsen Wins $100,000 Award … 2019 Arctowski Medal

Michelle F. Thomsen. Courtesy/LANL

LANL News:

Michelle F. Thomsen, Planetary Science Institute and Los Alamos National Laboratory, will receive the 2019 Arctowski Medal.

Over the past 40 years, Thomsen has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of the relationships between the sun and its planetary bodies, with a particular emphasis on the physics of collisionless shocks and the dynamics of the planetary magnetospheres of Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn.

Beginning with her graduate work, Thomsen analyzed data from the early planetary missions Pioneer 10 and 11 and made some of the initial discoveries of the characteristics of the magnetospheres of Jupiter and Saturn that became the foundation for later missions and analyses.

At Los Alamos National Laboratory, Thomsen used measurements from the two-spacecraft ISEE mission to explore the physics of collisionless shocks. She then played a central role in the analysis of data from the plasma instruments onboard the Los Alamos geosynchronous satellite network to investigate the effects of the solar wind on the Earth’s magnetosphere.

Her satellite work continued when Thomsen led the Los Alamos team in its analysis of plasma data from the Cassini mission to Saturn and its moons, leading to several key discoveries about plasma sources and the influence of planetary rotation on magnetospheric dynamics. 

Thomsen’s pioneering work continues today as a member of the teams studying the influence of solar wind on the magnetospheres of Jupiter and Saturn.

The Arctowski Medal is presented every two years to recognize outstanding contributions to the study of solar physics and solar terrestrial relationships. The Medal is now presented with an award of $100,000, plus $100,000 to support research in solar physics and solar terrestrial relationships at an institution of the recipient’s choice. The Arctowski Medal was established in 1958 by the bequest of Jane Arctowski in honor of her husband, Henryk Arctowski.

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