Montana State University

Mountains and Minds

Solar Physics Program Shines October 15, 2010 by Evelyn Boswell • Published 10/15/10

Since its inception, members of the MSU Solar Physics Group have distinguished themselves with national and international awards recognizing their scholarship. Among those awards are:

Charles Kankelborg and Dana Longcope

Charles Kankelborg and Dana Longcope each received the highest award the United States government gives to outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their careers. During a 2008 ceremony in Washington, D.C., Kankelborg received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. Longcope received his in 2000, three years after receiving a Faculty Early Career Development Grant from the National
Science Foundation and three years before receiving the first-ever Karen Harvey Award from the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society. The Harvey award honored Longcope--now considered one of the leading solar theorists in the world--for making significant contributions to the study of the sun early in his professional career.

Jiong Qiu

Jiong Qiu, an MSU physics professor who analyzes magnetic eruptions on the sun and brightness from the dark side of the moon as well as solar flares and magnetic regions, among other things, received her Harvey award in 2007.

Loren Acton

Loren Acton received the Hale Prize from the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society in 2000 for his outstanding contribution to the field of solar astronomy.

Acton also received MSU's top alumni honor in 2002--the Blue and Gold award--for his service to the scientific community and the nation.

MSU Solar Physics Web site

The MSU Solar Physics Web site at is also a high-achiever. The site--second in number of hits for an MSU site after the MSU homepage--had more than 2.5 million hits in the first half of 2010. It's a feat that professor David McKenzie credits to four factors: The site offers dramatic images of the sun. It's home to a solar outreach program that provides classroom activities to school teachers. It houses a collection of scientific papers on findings in solar physics. It's a rare archive, storing 10 years of continuous solar data from the Yohkoh mission.

Jonathan Cirtain

Former MSU graduate student Jonathan Cirtain won a Graduate Student Research Fellowship to work at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics on the X-Ray Telescope being built for Hinode. Two years after he received his doctorate from MSU, he received the Young Scientist Award at a meeting of the International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy/International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics in Italy. He is now at the Marshall Space Flight Center and the project scientist for Hinode.