Dr Tim Brown to receive distinguished Watson Medal

Annual Award to be Presented by the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. this May

Goleta, California – Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGT) and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) are pleased to announce Dr. Timothy M. Brown as the 2016 recipient of the prestigious James Craig Watson Medal for Astronomy. According to NAS, Brown has been awarded this honor for “his visionary scientific and technical advancements that have been critical to the fields of helioseismology, asteroseismology, and the emerging field of spectroscopy of transiting exoplanets, and for his critical role in helping a new generation of scientists and facilities to succeed.” The Watson Medal will be presented at a ceremony on Sunday, May 1, 2016, during the Academy’s meeting held every other year in Washington D.C.

Dr Tim Brown

The James Craig Watson Medal is presented every two years for outstanding contributions to the science of astronomy and carries with it a gold-plated bronze medal, a $25,000 prize, and $50,000 to support the recipient’s research. The Watson Medal was established by NAS Member and prolific Canadian-American astronomer, James Craig Watson. Watson is credited with discovering twenty-two asteroids in his lifetime. He published many articles and wrote A Popular Treatise on Comets (1861) and Theoretical Astronomy (1868). The Watson Medal was first awarded in 1887 to Benjamin Apthorp Gould for his work promoting the progress of astronomical science. Gould was not only an astronomer, but also active in securing the establishment of the National Academy of Sciences.

Previous recipients of this award have included such luminaries as: Robert P. Kirshner (2014); Jeremiah P. Ostriker (2012), Margaret J. Geller (2010); Roc M. Cutri and Michael F. Skrutski (2007); Vera C. Rubin (2004); Carolyn S. Shoemaker and Eugene M. Shoemaker (1998); R.B. Leighton (1986); Stanton J. Peale (1982); Willem De Sitter (1929); and J.C. Kapteyn (1913).

"We are proud that Tim’s contributions to astrophysics and to mankind's understanding of the universe are being recognized by this award," said Todd Boroson, Director of LCOGT. "Tim’s work has strongly influenced several important areas of research, and his efforts on behalf of this institution and the community will have lasting impact."

Brown has made many fundamental contributions to astronomy and astrophysics through instrument development, theory and interpretation, and observations. In the field of helioseismology—the study of the sun’s interior through the detection of subtle movements on the solar surface—he formulated a method to make extremely sensitive, linear Doppler-velocity images of the sun, called the "Fourier Tachometer". The devices based on this method became key to the field of helioseismology and are used in both ground-based networks and spacecraft that now observe and study the sun. Asteroseismology applies the lessons of helioseismology to detect similar oscillations on other stars, which is challenging since stars appear so much fainter than the sun. Here, Brown’s pioneering instrument developments and observations led to major advancements in the field and to asteroseismology being included as a science goal of NASA's Kepler star-observing mission.

The area where Brown has made the greatest contribution to modern astrophysics is in enabling the study of atmospheres of exoplanets—planets orbiting stars other than our own sun. Brown and Dr. David Charbonneau found and measured the first transits of an exoplanet, HD209458b, in front of its star, which allowed them to estimate the planet’s radius and density and infer its composition. Brown then went on to develop a method to study exoplanet atmospheres through analysis of the light of the planet’s parent star, which is altered when it travels through a planet’s atmosphere. Brown and colleagues employed this method to make the first detection of an exoplanet atmosphere using data gathered from the Hubble Space Telescope. This technique is now used by teams around the world and has been applied to dozens of faraway worlds.

"Tim joined LCOGT in 2005, and assembled the scientific staff and advisory board," said Wayne Rosing, Founder and Chief Technologist. "He did an exceptional job in complementing our engineering effort with an excellent and productive science team which was productive early on in our development as an organization." Dr. Tim Brown started at LCOGT in 2005, as its first Scientific Director, playing a vital role in the formation of the organization. “The notion of a worldwide telescope network was something I had been dreaming about for several years, so when the opportunity arose, I jumped at it,” said Brown. No other scientific institution in the world is able to offer as impressive resources for studying rapidly changing objects in the Universe as LCOGT. Using a global network of robotic telescopes, astronomers, scientists, and educators are able to use the LCOGT system to conduct world-class scientific studies, and make the exploration of cutting edge astrophysics a direct, hands-on experience. By taking a collaborative approach and engaging with both the scientific world and that of educators, LCOGT hopes to revolutionize time domain astronomy research. Scientists worldwide recognize the significance and importance of such a powerful tool, and are already publishing groundbreaking results obtained by utilizing the LCOGT network. They are able to request observations the instant they learn of a gamma-ray burst or the discovery of a new supernova. Recent discoveries by LCOGT scientists have included potentially hazardous asteroids crossing the orbit of Earth, new planets around other stars, and stars being torn apart by black holes. This technology is also being used to measure Dark Energy, the mysterious substance that dominates the Universe and drives its accelerating expansion.

From its inception, LCOGT has been committed to using astronomy as a tool for public engagement, research and education and to encourage eager learners of all ages to think critically and develop investigative skills. Using this network, educators are able to access continuous data to share with their students. Today, anyone in the world, at any time, is able to make discoveries using the LCOGT network over the Internet, thus opening up new avenues of exploration and fascination, encouraging children and adults alike to discover the wonders of the Universe and ignite a passion for science never before realized.

"It is my hope we continue to inspire future generations to pursue science and for our citizens to have a basic understanding of science, as I believe this helps our society as a whole," said Dr. Tim Brown. "And astronomy is a great place to start."


Dr. Timothy Brown is available for interviews in-person the week of February 8-12, or via Skype/telephone prior to then. To arrange an interview with Dr. Timothy Brown or for his curriculum vitae, please contact:

About Dr Tim Brown

Dr. Tim Brown is the current Principal Scientist at LCOGT, and also Adjunct Professor associated with the Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy (CASA) at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Until last year he was an Adjunct Professor, Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara. Dr. Brown held the position of Scientific Director for LCOGT, and was one of several individuals who played a significant role in the early formation of the organization. In that position he was responsible for building a topnotch science team for LCOGT, many of whom remain on staff today. Previously he spent over 25 years with the High Altitude Observatory, a division of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and was concurrently an Adjoint Professor in the department of Astrophysical, Planetary, and Atmospheric Sciences, at the University of Colorado, Boulder. In 2001, he was the first recipient of NCAR's Distinguished Achievement Award. Notable instrumentation and observing milestones include: the Solar Diameter Monitor, the Fourier Tachometer, the Advanced Fiber Optic Echelle spectrograph, the technique of Ensemble-Calibrated Stellar Photometry, and the STARE telescope to search for transiting planets. Dr. Brown was an early member of the Kepler science team where he collated and calibrated the ground-based photometry and used the results to estimate the structural parameters of potential Kepler target stars. He is the past chair for several community organizations and has advised graduate and post-doctoral students. Dr. Brown completed his undergraduate work at Wesleyan University, and earned his Ph.D. from University of Colorado, Boulder. He lives in Boulder, Colorado with his longtime partner, Rosie. They have three children and two grandchildren (with one on the way).

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