Reports from CAIP Affiliates: Royal Astronomical Society

The Society’s historical charter defines its aims as “the encouragement and promotion of astronomy”. Those aims have been extended to embrace geophysics, solar and solar-terrestrial physics, and planetary sciences (as well as the ‘new astronomies’, such as astroparticle physics, astrobiology, etc.), and are pursued through a range of activities, including:

  • the publication of astronomical and geophysical research, in the RAS’s journals;
  • regular meetings, in London and elsewhere;
  • the award of modest grants in support of research and study;
  • educational activities at all levels; and
  • the maintenance of a comprehensive reference library

The membership consists of Fellows and Associates. Fellowship is open to any person over the age of eighteen whose application is acceptable to the Society; the Fellowship consists of primarily professional astronomers and geophysicists, based in the UK and elsewhere (about a third of Fellows are based outside the UK), with a significant number of students, advanced amateur astronomers, and others with an interest in the geo- and astro-sciences. The RAS is the UK National Member of the International Astronomical Union, which consists of both national and individual members. Practicing scientists who wish to be individual members of the IAU are required to seek membership through the RAS.

The RAS may honour any person, eminent in the field of astronomy or geophysics by election as an Associate of the Society. This is typically in recognition of services to astronomical and geophysical science such as distinguished leadership of a school, observatory or laboratory; outstanding services to national or international scientific organizations; exceptionally important work in editing scientific publications; influential work in education and public outreach in these sciences; or specially outstanding distinguished work in the history of these sciences.

The Society awards a number of medals:

  • The Gold Medal: the Society’s highest honour, one awarded annually for achievement in astronomy (including astroparticle physics, cosmochemistry, etc.); and one awarded annually for achievement in geophysics (including solar-terrestrial physics and planetary sciences);
  • The Eddington Medal: normally awarded every other year, for investigations of outstanding merit in theoretical astrophysics;
  • The Herschel Medal: normally awarded every other year, for investigations of outstanding merit in observational astrophysics;
  • The Chapman Medal: normally awarded every other year, for investigations of outstanding merit in solar-terrestrial physics, including geomagnetism and aeronomy;
  • The Price Medal: normally awarded every other year, for investigations of outstanding merit in solid-earth geophysics, oceanography, or planetary sciences;
  • The Jackson-Gwilt Medal: awarded not more often than every second year, for the invention, improvement, or development of astronomical instrumentation or techniques; for achievement in observational astronomy; or for achievement in research into the history of astronomy

The RAS will, on application, consider defraying the travel costs of young (postgraduate and recent postdoctoral) speakers at its meetings, and offers limited support for overseas speakers at its Discussion Meetings.

The RAS publishes results of original research in its major journals, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS – neither published monthly, nor containing ‘notices’!) and Geophysical Journal international (GJI) Astronomy & Geophysics is the Society’s full-colour news & reviews journal, distributed to all members. From time to time the Society produces other publications, such as reviews of Astronomy in the UK and Geophysics in the UK, also distributed free to members. It also produces an annual, on-line listing of Postgraduate Opportunities in astronomy & geophysics.