We are delighted to congratulate Professor Douglas Gough, Emeritus Fellow of Churchill College, on being awarded the 2024 Crafoord Prize in Astronomy for developing methods that reveal the secrets inside the Sun and stars.

The Crafoord Prize is one of the world’s most prestigious science prizes, awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for excellence in disciplines chosen to complement those for which the Nobel Prizes are awarded. Professor Gough received the award with Jørgen Christensen-Dalsgaard from Aarhus University, Denmark, and Conny Aerts from KU Leuven, Belgium.

I received a phone call out of the blue late one mid-January afternoon from the President of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences telling me that I had been awarded the Crafoord Prize. I was both stunned and elated.

Awarded in recognition of his establishment of and pioneering contribution to the discipline of helioseismology, and subsequently asteroseismology, Douglas was first inspired into the field in June 1975. This was the date he encountered two observers who independently had measured, but not yet published, the frequencies of so-called five-minute solar oscillations. As he recalls, “The level of precision made me realise that the data could permit a determination of properties of the Sun’s interior that could be attained in no other way. It would be of paramount importance for addressing issues in fundamental physics, such as the production and stability of near-massless elementary particles, called neutrinos, generated by the nuclear reactions in the Sun’s innermost core, and a subtle property of the Sun’s gravitational field that would provide a crucial test of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.” This understanding directly enthused Douglas to develop the theory that would be required for establishing how that could be accomplished.

Professor Gough is now trying to determine the age of the sun to high precision, to shed light on the epoch during which our planetary system was formed, extending the work to other stars, via asteroseismology, to improve our knowledge of stellar ages, and hence of the ages of the galaxy and the Universe itself.

Douglas first joined Churchill College as a fellow in 1972 and greatly enjoyed the many years he spent supervising students. “I was very fortunate to be invited to the Churchill Fellowship”, Douglas said. “I appreciated the benefit I had enjoyed from the supervision system and I wanted to repay, via the next generation. Face-to-face interaction with the most enthusiastic students is exhilarating… The advice I was given before coming to Cambridge as a student was to work hard and play hard.  I endorse both wholeheartedly.  I strongly advise also to follow your heart when choosing and working towards the future, so as to be happy and fulfilled.”

Read more about the 2024 Crafoord Prize in Astronomy