Assistant Professor of Astronomy Bryan M. Gaensler of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) has been awarded the 2006 Newton Lacy Pierce Prize by the American Astronomical Society (AAS). Gaensler received the prize for his work on the interactions between neutron stars and their surroundings, which led to a greater appreciation of the wide diversity of magnetized neutron stars.

Gaensler has conducted extensive research on neutron stars, including an exotic variety with extremely strong magnetic fields called magnetars. In January 2005, he linked magnetars with their massive progenitor stars, showing that some of the biggest stars in the cosmos become the strongest magnets when they die. He also was among the astronomers who studied the brightest explosion ever observed from Earth – a gamma-ray flare generated by a magnetar in the Milky Way galaxy.

The Newton Lacy Pierce Prize normally is awarded annually for outstanding achievement over the past five years in observational astronomical research based on measurements of radiation from an astronomical object. Gaensler will receive a cash award to be established by the council of the AAS, and he will be invited to present a talk at a future meeting of the society.