Jackson-Gwilt medal

Professor Vik Dhillon is awarded the Jackson-Gwilt medal

Professor Vikram Dhillon of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Sheffield has been awarded the Jackson-Gwilt medal by the Royal Astronomical Society for his many contributions to the development of novel astronomical instrumentation and his pioneering work on high-speed photometry.

The Jackson-Gwilt Medal is awarded for the invention, improvement or development of astronomical instrumentation or techniques; for achievement in observational astronomy; or for achievement in research in the history of astronomy.

Professor Dhillon’s research interests lie in the area of compact objects, such as white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes, both isolated and in binary systems. A running theme throughout his research career has been the use of innovative techniques to push the observational boundaries further than was possible before.

A key property of compact objects is their short-term variability, often on timescales of the order of seconds and less. However, until recently, this facet of astrophysics had not been fully explored. Professor Dhillon has endeavoured to rectify this, and to address the challenges of observations on these timescales with his development and operation of the ULTRACAM instrument. This is a high-speed camera that can obtain simultaneous observations in three different band-passes at an extremely high rate. It has been used as a visitor instrument on several world-leading telescopes for a total of close to one full year over the past decade. The impact of the instrument has been enormous: it has produced ground breaking papers covering fields as diverse as outer Solar System objects, extra-solar planets, brown dwarfs, interacting binaries, white dwarfs and pulsars.

Professor Dhillon oversaw the design, construction of the instrument, continues its operation, and provides support to observers to this date. He continues to innovate and has moved on to areas such as high-speed spectroscopy and robotic telescopes.

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