Montana State University

Solar physicist shines, wins second Harvey Award for MSU

January 31, 2007 -- By Evelyn Boswell, MSU News Service


Jiong Qiu. (MSU photo by Jay Thane).   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
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BOZEMAN -- For the second time in five years, a Montana State University scientist has won a major award for solar physicists who've made significant contributions early in their career.

Jiong Qiu (pronounced Gee-ong Chew), 36, will receive the Karen Harvey Award in late May during the annual meeting of the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu. Besides receiving $1,000 and a certificate, she will give a lecture about her work during a joint session of the Solar Physics Division and the American Astronomical Society. Qiu analyzes magnetic eruptions on the sun and brightness from the dark side of the moon.

"It's always really nice to know that your colleagues in the field, whose opinions you value most, appreciate your work," said MSU's Dana Longcope, who received the first Harvey in 2003. He nominated Qiu for the award.

Qiu focuses on two areas of research, Longcope said. In one, she analyzes measurements taken from the ground and space to see how magnetic activities on the sun relate to activities in space.

"She developed a technique for using measurements to really answer that question," Longcope said. "I have been working on a small part of that. She has made a number of contributions in that area."

Qiu also played a major role in figuring out how to measure the brightness of the dark side of the moon, Longcope said. Called "earth shine," that brightness is actually sunlight reflected from the earth. Knowing how much light is reflected relates to changes in global climate, Longcope said. When lots of clouds cover the earth, for example, more sunlight is reflected and doesn't reach the earth.

"Everyone knows how much light the sun produces, but you need to know how much actually gets down to earth and how much is reflected," Longcope said. "... It's an important measurement, and she played a large part in that."

Qiu said she was shocked when she learned of her selection since she hadn't known she was nominated. She was also amazed to be on a list with Longcope.

"You must be kidding," Qiu said when James Klimchuk, head of the Solar Physics Division told her the news.

Qiu came to MSU in 2005 after earning her doctoral degree in China and working seven years at Big Bear Solar Observatory in California and New Jersey Institute of Technology, which manages the observatory. Her reasons for coming to MSU were obvious, she said.

"The solar group here is excellent," she said. "I knew many names in the group and liked their work when I was starting my graduate school in China."

Qiu grew up in southwest China. Once interested in becoming an astronaut, Qiu said she was motivated to study astronomy in Nanjing University, where she joined the solar group. After coming to MSU, she was surprised and pleased to learn that Loren Acton had been an astronaut. Acton oversees the solar physics group at MSU.

Jack Harvey, Karen's husband, said in a telephone interview from Tucson, Ariz., "I'm sure Karen would have been very happy to have another woman receive the prize."

The first woman to win the Harvey award was Sarah Gibson from the High Altitude Observatory in Boulder, Colo. She received it in 2005. The other winners came from the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass.

Jack Harvey is an astronomer at the National Solar Observatory. Karen Harvey was a solar physicist, president of the Solar Physics Research Corporation, and treasurer of the Solar Physics Division before dying of cancer at age 59.

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu