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Peter Mészáros Elected a Member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences

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21 June 2010

Peter Mészáros, Holder of the Eberly Family Chair in Astronomy and Astrophysics and professor of physics at Penn State, has been elected a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in recognition of his contributions to high-energy astrophysics. Among his research achievements cited is his identification of the physics that determined how structures of different masses in the early universe evolved into the galaxies and other objects in our universe today — a model known as the “Mészáros Effect.”

Mészáros also is highly regarded for his research on gamma-ray bursts, a type of cosmic explosion which is the largest and most mysterious in the universe.  He predicted that gamma-ray bursts would exhibit X-ray and optical afterglows — a model through which observations of burst afterglows now are interpreted.  He and his collaborators also developed the most widely accepted interpretation of gamma-ray bursts, known as the cosmological-fireball-shock scenario. His predictions of the properties of burst afterglows at X-ray and optical wavelengths were confirmed by observations made with the Beppo-SAX satellite in 1997.  Since that time, astronomers worldwide have studied more than 100 afterglows in detail, and they are continuing to obtain an increasing number of new and precise afterglow detections, locations, and follow-up observations with the Swift multi-wavelength space observatory and other observatories.

Other achievements by Mészáros include and his research on the physics of magnetized neutron stars, and his pioneering work on advection-dominated flow — a process by which the energy found in the innermost core of massive objects such as black holes is swept along instead of radiated away.

In addition to this most recent honor, Mészáros was one of three astrophysicists awarded the Bruno Rossi Prize by the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society in 2000. Along with colleagues Bohdan Paczynski of Princeton University and Sir Martin Rees of the Royal Observatories in England, Mészáros received this award in recognition of the development of theoretical models of gamma-ray bursts years before observational scientists had adequate tools to study the phenomena.

Among the other national and international honors that Mészáros has received for his research accomplishments are his election as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2010.  He was a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in 1999, two Smithsonian Fellowships in 1982 and 1990, an International Research and Exchanges Board Fellowship in 1986, and a Royal Society Guest Fellowship in 1991. He also was co-recipient of the first prize of the Gravity Research Foundation in 1976.

Mészáros has been a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California in Santa Barbara, and the Hobby-Eberly Telescope board. He is a member of the Swift Science Team and the IceCube Antarctic Neutrino Detector project. He also is a member of the director's board of the Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos and Geometry and a member of the Center for Gravitational Wave Physics at Penn State. He has served on numerous committees of NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the American Astronomical Society. He also has served as the chair of the Nonthermal Gamma-Ray Sources Program and the Ultra-High Energy Cosmic Rays, Neutrinos, and Photons Program, both at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California in Santa Barbara.

Mészáros received his master's degree in physics from the National University of Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1967, and his doctoral degree in astronomy from the University of California at Berkeley in 1972. After appointments as a research associate at Princeton University and a research fellow at the University of Cambridge in England, he was a staff scientist at the Max-Planck Institute for Astrophysics from 1975 to 1983. He joined the Penn State faculty as an associate professor in 1983, was promoted to professor in 1987, and was named distinguished professor in 2000. He served as head of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics from 1993 to 2003. He recently authored a book, titled The High Energy Universe, which is scheduled to be published in 2010.

The Hungarian Academy of Sciences is a scholarly organization founded on the principle of self-government in 1825, whose main goals include the study of science, the publicizing of scientific achievements, and the aid and promotion of research. It is a public body composed of academicians and other representatives of the sciences.

[ C L M /K V]

 

 

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