Montana State University

Sun shines third time on MSU physicist

January 29, 2003 -- By Evelyn Boswell, MSU Research Office


Dana Longcope   High-Res Available

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The eyes of the world's solar physicists have been observing Dana Longcope while he's been focusing on the sun.

Longcope, associate professor of physics at Montana State University-Bozeman, will receive the first Karen Harvey Prize given by the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society. To be presented this summer, it's Longcope's third such prize in recent years. He received similar awards from the White House in 2000 and the National Science Foundation in 1998. All three prizes honored scientists who are early in their careers.

"You'd think I'd start winning something that wasn't for young people," joked Longcope, 39.

Longcope was a "slam-dunk" for the Harvey prize, said Richard Canfield who, along with Loren Acton, nominated him. Canfield and Acton are research professors at MSU and internationally-known solar physicists themselves.

Eric Priest from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland wrote in support of the nomination that, "In my view, he is the brightest young solar MHD (Magneto-Hydrodynamics) theorist in the USA today. Indeed, he has developed such a strong reputation that I do not now regard him as 'young' but as simply one of the main theorists in solar physics."

Priest, like Acton, won the prestigious Hale Prize for life-time achievement in solar physics.

"I'm sure Karen would be extremely delighted with his (Longcope's) selection," commented Jack Harvey, Karen's husband and an astronomer at the National Solar Observatory in Arizona. "I'm highly delighted with the selection."

Karen Harvey died of cancer in April. She was 59 years old, a solar physicist and president of the Solar Physics Research Corporation. She was also treasurer of the Solar Physics Division for many years and knew Longcope personally.

One of two major prizes given by the Solar Physics Division, the Karen Harvey Prize will be awarded at least once every other year. It will go to someone who has made significant contributions to the study of the sun and is younger than 36 or has received a Ph.D. within the last 10 years. Longcope received his doctorate in 1993, the same year Harvey received hers.

Longcope's prize will give him $1,000, a "stunning certificate" and the opportunity to address the upcoming annual meeting of the Solar Physics Division in Maryland. Longcope plans to talk about his research on "curious little features" called X-ray bright points. These points show up as unusually bright spots on X-rays and extreme ultraviolet images of the sun. Studied by Harvey, too, these bright points may lead to greater understanding of larger, more complex magnetic systems on the sun and earth, Longcope said.

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