Baker’s prize lecture was “New Results About the Earth’s Van Allen Radiation Belts.” The first great scientific discovery of the Space Age was that Earth is enshrouded in belts of high-energy, magnetically trapped and charged subatomic particles.
Baker reviewed five decades of progress during his talk regarding the origin and structure of the belts, especially recent advances made possible by NASA’s twin Van Allen space probes. The Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) mission, which was launched in 2012 by NASA to study the Van Allen belts, involves extensive collaboration with CU-Boulder, which will receive more than $18 million from the space agency over the mission lifetime. Baker led a science team that designed and built an instrument to capture and measure the high-energy electrons racing through the belts.
Baker’s lecture was the ninth Kavli Foundation Plenary Lectureship. The Kavli Foundation Plenary Lectureship was one of nine major prizes given out for outstanding achievements in research, instrument development and education at the Seattle AAS meeting.
Established in 1899 and based in Washington, D.C., AAS is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. Its membership of about 8,000 individuals also includes physicists, mathematicians, geologists, engineers and others whose research and educational interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects now comprising contemporary astronomy.