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Three EU-backed scientists win major prize in astronomy and mathematics

Their fascinating new insight into phenomena imperceptible to the human eye has earned mathematician Claire Voisin and astrophysicists Conny Aerts and Jørgen Christensen-Dalsgaard the prestigious Crafoord Prize in Mathematics and Astronomy.

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What secrets lie inside the Sun and other stars? How can we describe shapes that cannot be seen? This year’s Crafoord Prize in Astronomy and Mathematics honours four scientists who have given us new knowledge on these phenomena.

Astronomical findings

Astrophysicists Jørgen Christensen-Dalsgaard (Denmark) and Conny Aerts (Belgium) have been awarded the 2024 Crafoord Prize in Astronomy “for developing the methods of asteroseismology and their application to the study of the interior of the Sun and of other stars”. They share this award with UK-based astrophysicist Douglas Gough. Seismology studies how the Earth shakes during earthquakes to learn about its interior. The laureates applied this concept to the field of astronomy, focusing on movements on the surface of the Sun and other stars in order to investigate their interior. This field, in which movements on stellar surfaces are caused by soundwave-like internal oscillations, is called asteroseismology. Prof. Emeritus Christensen-Dalsgaard played a major role in the first-generation development of asteroseismology. Supported by the EU-funded project ASTERISK, he combined advanced observations of stellar oscillations with state-of-the-art modelling of stars, and also conducted research on low-mass cool stars. His work alongside Douglas Gough and other researchers led to the establishment of a network called the GONG telescopes in 1995. This brought about novel discoveries, such as how the interior of the Sun rotates differently to its outer layer. Prof. Aerts used the same method to explore distant stars. She investigated stellar interiors and stellar evolution with backing from the EU-funded PROSPERITY project, and a few years later conducted research into massive stars as part of another EU-funded project called MAMSIE. Prof. Aerts’ latest EU grant through the 4D-STAR project is currently enabling her work on massive star modelling. Through this project, she hopes to tackle one of the biggest challenges in astrophysics, namely accurately measuring stellar age, which would provide valuable insight into how galaxies evolve chemically and how stars and planets form inside them.

Mathematical contributions

French mathematician Claire Voisin received this year’s Crafoord Prize in Mathematics “for outstanding contributions to complex and algebraic geometry, including Hodge theory, algebraic cycles, and hyperkähler geometry”. Dr Voisin’s work in algebraic geometry has yielded positive results in famous unsolved problems, such as the Kodaira problem. She has also been the leading researcher on the Hodge conjecture, a major unsolved problem in algebraic and complex geometry. Additionally, she has recently developed a method for determining whether geometric shapes are rational. With EU backing through the HyperK project, Dr Voisin is also working on bringing hyperkähler geometry to the centre of modern mathematics. Her work – thanks to which we know that gravity warps both space and time, and that the universe is curved – has helped to advance scientific knowledge and transform the world. The PROSPERITY (Probing Stellar Physics and Testing Stellar Evolution through Asteroseismology), ASTERISK (ASTERoseismic Investigations with SONG and Kepler), and MAMSIE (Mixing and Angular Momentum tranSport of m assIvE stars) projects have ended. HyperK (Modern Aspects of Geometry: Categories, Cycles and Cohomology of Hyperkähler Varieties) ends in 2026 and 4D-STAR (Lifting stellar structure and evolution to higher dimensions in the era of space asteroseismology) in 2029. For more information, please see: 4D-STAR project MAMSIE project web page PROSPERITY project ASTERISK project HyperK project


4D-STAR, MAMSIE, PROSPERITY, ASTERISK, HyperK, Crafoord Prize, astronomy, mathematics, Claire Voisin, Conny Aerts, Jørgen Christensen-Dalsgaard, star, asteroseismology, algebraic, geometry

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