30 June 2009

Erik Høg receives Russian medal

Associate Professor Emeritus Erik Høg has been awarded the Russian Struve Medal for his great contributions to the advancement of astrometry from the Earth and from space. Erik Høg was presented with the medal at a ceremony in Saint Petersburg.

Astrometry is the branch of astronomy where one measures the positions of stars and other celestial objects. If one measures very precisely over a number of years, one can calculate the movements of the stars and their distance from the Earth. Astronomers have been doing this for millennia, but in the past 50 years astrometry has gone through a colossal development with regards to the accuracy and number of stars, and Erik Høg's contributions have played a significant role in this advancement.

His contributions lie in several areas - including observations and ideas and the development of new instruments. These include the development of  photoelectric astrometry since 1960 by counting the individual photons, the new design of the ESA satellite Hipparcos, which was launched in 1989, new experiment with Hipparcos, which resulted in the Tycho-2 catalogue with 2.5 million stars, and the idea for a new satellite, Roemer, where the  use of CCDs meant 100.000 times greater effectiveness. This resulted in the approval of a new ESA satellite, Gaia, which will be launched in 2012.

The Struve Medal is named
after F.G.W. Struve, who
founded the Central
Astronomical Observatory in
Pulkovo in 1839. The award is
given out by the Russian
Academy of Sciences.

Collaboration with the Russians in the years 1990-91 was key to his being able to propose his idea for the Roemer Satellite in 1992. The work with astrometry has been his life's work.

”I entered astrometry, when, as a student, I was assigned to work with the meridian circle, which had just been set up at Brorfelde as the observatory's main instrument. My teachers were Peter Naur and Bengt Strömgren, who both meant a great deal to me", explains Erik Høg, who is still very active giving lectures around the country and abroad and with writing the history of astrometry during the past 2000 years.