Dr. Gaspar Bakos of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has been awarded the 2011 Newton Lacy Pierce prize of the American Astronomical Society for "for outstanding achievement, over the past five years, in observational astronomical research based on measurements of radiation from an astronomical object." It is given to an astronomer who has not attained 36 years of age in the year designated for the award.
Before coming to the CfA, Dr. Bakos obtained his MSc in 2000 at the Eotvos Lorand University (ELTE) in Budapest. He joined the Solar, Stellar, and Planetary (SSP) Division of the CfA in January 2001 as a Predoctoral Fellow. After receiving his PhD from ELTE in 2004, he was a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow until 2007 and a National Science
Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow until 2010. Currently he is an SAO scientist within the SSP division.
Dr. Bakos is the Principal Investigator for the Hungarian-made Automated Telescope Network (HATNet), six small (11cm diameter), wide-field, fully-automated telescopes designed to detect and characterize extrasolar planets and to find and to study bright variable stars. The network is maintained by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics with primary stations at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Submillimeter Array site atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Dr. Bakos is also the PI for the related HAT-South network of telescopes installed to Chile, Australia and Namibia, the first truly global network of identical telescopes allowing for round-the-clock monitoring of the sky.
Data from HATNet have enabled the discovery of roughly a quarter of the more than 100 known exoplanets which transit their parent stars. Observations of transiting exoplanets yield precise measures of the mass and radius of the planet, placing important constraints on the planet's internal structure. The HATNet planets have masses ranging from the mass of Neptune (only 5% of the mass of Jupiter) to roughly 7 times the mass of Jupiter. Several HATNet planets are the first of their kind, including two of the first four transiting Neptune-mass planets and the first multi-planet systems with a transiting inner planet.
Dr. Bakos will deliver his invited talk at an upcoming AAS meeting.