Pasadena, CA—The Royal Astronomical Society has awarded Stephen Shectman of the Carnegie Observatories the 2008 Jackson-Gwilt Medal for his exceptional work in developing astronomical instrumentation and in constructing telescopes. Shectman was the project scientist for Carnegie’s twin Magellan 6.5-meter mirror telescopes at Las Campanas, Chile, and has designed and built numerous of its instruments.

In addition to studying galaxies and stars, Shectman develops the tools needed for his research. Among the instruments that he has developed is a series of photon-counting detectors for faint-object spectroscopy used at Las Campanas and copied by other observatories. He also built the high-resolution echelle spectrograph and the multi-object fiber spectrograph for the Las Campanas 100-inch du Pont telescope. With Rebecca Bernstein (currently at UC Santa Cruz), he built the high-resolution echelle spectrograph for Magellan and more recently he’s worked on the Magellan echellette spectrograph, a joint MIT-Carnegie project, and the Magellan Planet Finder.

“It’s hard to overstate Shectman's contribution to astronomy through his innovative design of astronomical instruments and telescopes, commented Wendy Freedman, the Crawford H. Greenewalt director of the Carnegie Observatories. “I am positively delighted to see him recognized in this way.”

Richard Meserve, Carnegie president observed: “Shectman is an extraordinary scientist and an exceptional instrument maker. His skill in developing instruments has paved the way for scientific advances by many others.”

Shectman investigates the large-scale structure of the galaxy distribution and searches for ancient stars with very low abundances of the heavier elements. He is a driving force behind the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) project. Scheduled for completion around 2016, the GMT will have the resolving power of a 24.5-meter (80 foot) primary mirror—far larger than any other telescope ever built. It will answer many of the questions in astrophysics today and produce images up to 10 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope.

Shectman received a B.S. in physics from Yale University in 1969 and a Ph.D. in astronomy from the California Institute of Technology in 1973. He was awarded an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in 1984 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1997. In 2005 he received the Weber Award for Astronomical Instrumentation from the American Astronomical Society.

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Contact at the Royal Astronomical Society: Dr Robert Massey, RAS Press Officer;Tel: +44 (0)20 7734 3307 / 4582;Mob: +44 (0)794 124 8035;E-mail: rm@ras.org.uk .See their press release about the award here http://www.ras.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1384&Itemid=2