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IAA Awards

      The IAA issues two awards, the Fitzgerald and Opik medals.

      "The Aidan P. Fitzgerald Memorial Medal is the prestigious award of the Irish Astronomical Association, and is named in memory of one of its leading members back in the 40's and 50's. It is presented not more than once per year for "Outstanding Service to the Association" to someone usually, but not necessarily in a Council post.

      Aidan Fitzgerald was born in Limerick, Ireland and had a keen interest in astronomy since childhood. Later he bought telescopes and other equipment and set them up in an observatory in his back garden. He became a leading light in the Belfast Centre of the old Irish Astronomical Society, and later became Chairman. He was also on the editorial board of the Irish Astronomical Journal. By profession, he was a principal officer in the Northern Ireland Ministry of Health and Local Government, and had been awarded the O.B.E. He never married, and died suddenly in the summer of 1964 from a heart attack, just short of his retirement.

      In June 1954, the planet Mars was closer to earth than it had been for several years, but the most ideal conditions for observation were from the southern hemisphere. Astronomers from all over the world co-operated to make observations of the planet and a committee was set up under the chairmanship of Professor Earl C. Slipher from the Lowell Observatory in Arizona.

      Slipher was probably the greatest authority on Mars and was to observe and photograph the red planet from the Lamont-Hussey Observatory at Bloemfontein, South Africa  using the great 27-inch refractor, (now dismantled)  Fitzgerald was invited to join him at the invitation of the National Geographic Society who sponsored the studies, which were to last some four months.

      As to the medal itself, it is tastefully minted in bronze gilt, and on the obverse shows the profile of the famous "South Refractor" at Dunsink Observatory outside Dublin, while the reverse has the recipients name and date engraved inside a laurel wreath." (Many thanks to John C McConnell for the above words)

        IAA Fitzgerald Medal recipients

        1989        David Beesley       

        1990        Terence P Murtagh

        1991        - none

        1992        Terry Moseley

        1993        Ronnie Ormonde

        1994        Bruce Hardie

        1995        Andy McCrea

        1996        Dr Mart de Groot

        1997        Sam Lyttle

        1998        Pat O'Neill

        1999        John McConnell

        2000        John Hall

        2001        Barry Loane

        2002        George Brannan

        2003        - none

        2004        Danny Collins; Derek Heatly

        2005        - none 

        2006        Robert Hill

        2007        Philip Baxter

        2008        - none

        2009        - none

        2010        Paul Evans

        2011        David Stewart

        2012        Jo Magill


      IAA Opik Medal recipients

      The Opik medal is a bit more special and is awarded forExceptional Service to Astronomy.

      Ernst Opik (1893-1985) was a noted Estonian astronomer and astrophysicist who spent the second half of his career (19481981) at Armagh Observatory. He was born in Kunda, Estonia and studied at the Universities of Moscow and Tartu.

      His astronomical work was varied and groundbreaking. In 1916 he devised a method of measuring the density of binary stars. His sample was Omega 2 Eridani, a white dwarf, which he estimated at 25,000 times the density of the Sun which he dismissed as impossible. In fact this was an underestimate!

      Later work included the 1922 determination of the distance of the Andromeda Galaxy – with a fair degree of accuracy, and the 1932 postulation of the existence of the Oort cloud, also called the Opik-Oort cloud.

      His grandson Lembit Opik is the former Lib-Dem MP.

      The medal has only been awarded twice as follows:-

        2000 First Opik award this year, presented to David Beesley by Lembit Opik

        2005 Terry Moseley

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