Meteorite research wins top astronomy prize

01 Feb 2013

A University of Manchester scientist has been awarded a Royal Astronomical Society prize for her research unravelling the impact history of the inner Solar System through studies of lunar samples.

Dr Katherine Joy's research takes her to extreme locations like Antarctica
Dr Katherine Joy's research takes her to extreme locations like Antarctica

Dr Katherine Joy, who is based in the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, has been awarded the 2013 Winton Capital Award for her pioneering work on lunar meteorites and rocks brought back by the Apollo astronauts.

Dr Joy’s research takes her to some of the world’s most extreme environments, including Iceland and Antarctica. Her commitment and scientific prowess has already won her two prestigious post-doctoral fellowships – at Birkbeck College, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, and at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston. Within five years of finishing her PhD she now holds a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at Manchester.

Dr Joy’s work combines laboratory chemical analysis of Moon samples with the analysis of spacecraft data, most notably from the ESA Smart-1 mission. Her research has enabled her and colleagues to identify probable fragments of the lunar basin-forming ‘impactors’. This now allows the source population of asteroidal impactors in the early Solar System to be better constrained and has led to a number of high-profile publications including a recent paper in the prestigious journal Science.

Dr Joy is highly committed to teaching and public outreach, giving large numbers of school and popular talks. She was largely responsible for the development of the scientific case for the international MoonZoo project ( that uses public participation to analyse high-resolution images of the lunar surface currently being obtained by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. Dr Joy serves as an enthusiastic and proactive Editorial Advisor for the RAS’s journal Astronomy and Geophysics.

She said: “I am very honoured to have my early career research recognised in this way, and grateful to the RAS and Winton Capital for the award.”

The Royal Astronomical Society awards honour individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to astronomy or geophysics and will be presented at the 2013 National Astronomy Meeting (NAM 2013) to be held in St Andrews, Scotland, in July.

Professor David Southwood, President of the Royal Astronomical Society, said: “It gives me great pleasure to announce these medals and awards, prizes that recognise the contributions made by astronomers and geophysicists both in the UK and around the world. The recipients encompass long-established researchers and those just starting out in their careers, whose work ranges from attempting to understand the processes that shape the Earth to developing models that describe the evolution of the Universe. My congratulations to everyone.”


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