Space Weather Professor Wins International Award

Posted: February 27, 2014 at 5:02 am, Last Updated: February 28, 2014 at 6:46 am

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By Michele McDonald

Dieter Bilitza

Dieter Bilitza. Photo courtesy of Dieter Bilitza

Mason researcher Dieter Bilitza has won the prestigious Kristian Birkeland Medal for Space Weather and Space Climate for his contributions to understanding and forecasting the weather and climate in near-Earth space.

“Dieter is one of the international leaders in space weather and upper atmosphere research,” says Michael Summers, director of the School of Physics, Astronomy and Computational Sciences (SPACS). “This award is a major recognition of his contributions to understanding the space environment of the Earth. The space environment affects how the sun impacts the atmosphere of the Earth, it influences the degree of protection of the Earth by the Earth’s magnetic field, and it also determines the degree of radiation experienced by astronauts, among many other things.”

Bilitza, a research professor in SPACS, was awarded the medal for his work on the International Reference Ionosphere, which is a widely used model that describes conditions in the Earth’s ionosphere. As people increasingly rely upon space-based technologies such as GPS and satellite-TV, forecasting weather conditions in space becomes essential.

“I was deeply honored to receive the medal that carries the name of Kristian Birkeland, one of my scientific idols who was the first to not only explain the aurora but also reproduce it in the laboratory,” Bilitza says. “Being selected for this award meant a lot to me because it tells me that the community and my peers greatly value my scientific research and that the results of my research are accepted and applied widely.”

Write to Michele McDonald at mmcdon15@gmu.edu

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