Miriam Keppler receives the A&A Best PhD Thesis Award

June 28, 2021
Miriam Keppler of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) in Heidelberg has been awarded at the 2021 annual meeting of the European Astronomical Society (EAS) with the A&A Best PhD Thesis Prize for her outstanding PhD thesis.
Miriam Keppler

The Best PhD Thesis Award was sponsored by the A&A Board of Directors on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics (A&A). With Miriam Keppler from MPIA, a young scientist is now honored who has done outstanding research work and published parts of her PhD thesis as lead author in A&A. With this award, the A&A Board of Directors also hopes to motivate a new generation of researchers who will shape astronomy in the decades to come.

Near infrared image of the PDS70 disk obtained with the SPHERE instrument. The young exoplanet PDS 70 b is clearly detected as a bright signal at the inner rim of the gap (dark region). The emission coming from central star was masked out. The bar to the lower right indicates the linear scale of the image at a distance of 370 light years.

Miriam Keppler's award specifically refers to the publication "Discovery of a planetary-mass companion within the gap of the transition disk around PDS 70" (Keppler et.al 2018, Astronomy & Astrophysics, Volume 617, id.A44, 21 pp.). Behind this rather unspectecular title lies one of the most important discoveries of recent years in the field of exoplanet research, i.e., the study of planets around other stars. Until then, one observed either the discs of gas and dust around young stars, which are expected for the formation of planets, or already "finished" planetary systems around other stars. However, the gas giant PDS 70 b was found within a gap of the protoplanetary disk of the star PDS 70 and thus represents an extremely young planet, which is still found in its formation environment. With respect to the formation of planetary systems, PDS 70 b is thus the first directly observed example of this early time step in the evolution and thus excellently suited for the testing of planet formation models. It should also be mentioned that PDS 70 b was discovered with the SPHERE instrument, co-developed at MPIA, at the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory ESO in Chile, with which particularly high-resolution observations have become possible.

Miriam Keppler is a scientist in Thomas Henning's MPIA Department of Planets and Star Formation. Previously, she studied physics in Munich and Heidelberg and was also an ERASMUS Fellow at the Institut de Planétologie et d'Astrophysique de Grenoble (IPAG). Between 2016 and 2020, she worked at MPIA under the supervision of Thomas Henning, Roy van Boekel and Myriam Benisty in the framework of the International Max Planck Research School for Astronomy and Cosmic Physics (IMPRS) on her PhD-thesis at the University of Heidelberg.

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