STEVE/Aurorasaurus Team Awarded Robert H. Goddard Group Honor Award

STEVE/Aurorasaurus Team Awarded Robert H. Goddard Group Honor Award

The New Mexico Consortium takes great pleasure in announcing that the STEVE/Aurorasaurus research team is being awarded NASA GSFC’s 2018 Robert H. Goddard Group Honor Award for Exceptional Achievement in Science.

The STEVE/Aurorasaurus team, led by Liz MacDonald, a space scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, studies the northern lights or aurora borealis by gathering information through aurora related tweets and observations reported via the Aurorasaurus website or app. The research team uses this verified citizen scientist gathered data by comparing their location with the modeled auroral ovals. In 2018, this team published “New science in plain sight : Citizen scientists lead to the discovery of optical structure in the upper atmosphere” in the journal of Science Advances. The new type of celestial phenomenon, first discovered by aurora enthusiasts, is called Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement or STEVE, and is a ribbon-like aurora in structure. In the year since, the paper has generated 10 citations and an Altmetric score in the top 5% of all papers, indicating its broad appeal and influence worldwide.

MacDonald said “It is wonderful that this award recognizes some folks who were not co-authors on the original ground-breaking paper but nonetheless have made critical contributions: Michael Cook, Song Despins, and Kasha Patel.” This includes 2 former NMC employees, and one additional citizen scientist.

Beginning in 2008, the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center developed the Robert H. Goddard Awards to combine its former Awards of Excellence and the Goddard Honor Awards. The objective of the Exceptional Achievement Award is to recognize individuals and teams who make significant contributions to the performance of the Goddard Space Flight Center’s mission, which aid the Goddard’s scientific, technical, and institutional capabilities, and enhances mission performance. Accomplishments must be significantly above job expectations as demonstrated by its significance, creativity, or uniqueness, and often exceptional performance sustained over a significant period of time. The scope and significance are to be determined relative to the skill group and grade level of the nominee’s peers, or in the case of teams, similar team activities.

The Goddard Award is named in honor of Robert Hutchings Goddard, pioneer in the field of rocketry. In 1926, Dr. Goddard’s first liquid fuel rocket was launched in Auburn, Mass. Larger scale experiments and a skeptical local government made it necessary for Dr. Goddard, who was to become recognized as the father of the United States space program, to move to New Mexico in 1930. There, he carried on a major series of tests until 1942, at which time he was called to Washington as Chief of Navy Research on jet-propelled planes.

NASA will present this award to the STEVE/Aurorasaurus team at the 2018 Robert H. Goddard Honor Awards Ceremony to be held on Thursday, May 16, 2019 at 10:00 am in the Building 8 Hinners Auditorium.  Light refreshments will be served.

List of award recipients (plus the 3 mentioned above):

  1. Elizabeth A. MacDonald1,2,*
  2. Eric Donovan3
  3. Yukitoshi Nishimura4,5
  4. Nathan A. Case6
  5. Megan Gillies3
  6. Bea Gallardo-Lacourt3,5
  7. William E. Archer3,
  8. Emma L. Spanswick3
  9. Notanee Bourassa7
  10. Martin Connors3,8,9
  11. Matthew Heavner2,10
  12. Brian Jackel3
  13. Burcu Kosar1,2
  14. David J. Knudsen3
  15. Chris Ratzlaff7and 
  16. Ian Schofield8

1.     1NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA. 2.     2New Mexico Consortium, Los Alamos, NM 87544, USA. 3.     3University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 4.     4Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, USA. 5.     5University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA. 6.     6Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK. 7.     7Alberta Aurora Chasers, Alberta, Canada. 8.     8Athabasca University, Athabasca, Alberta, Canada. 9.     9Department of Physics and Astronomy and Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration, Western University, London, Ontario N6A 3K7, Canada. 10.  10Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM 87545, USA.


Featured image above taken from Figure 1 in Aurorasaurus Team publication: “New science in plain sight : Citizen scientists lead to the discovery of optical structure in the upper atmosphere”. Image taken by expert aurora chaser from Regina Saskatchewan.