Physicist Peale Honored for Research Achievements
By George Foulsham
Stanton J. Peale, A professor emeritus renowned for his work in astrophysics, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Peale was among 72 new members elected to the academy in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.
Although Peale retired from UCSB in 1994, he remains a full-time researcher pursuing his study of the planet Mercury. His election brings to 30 the number of active UCSB faculty members elected to the academy.
The National Academy of Sciences is the country’s most prestigious scientific organization, and election to membership in the academy is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a U.S. scientist or engineer. The new members will be inducted into the academy next April at the group’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
“We all share great joy and pride in the election of Professor Stan Peale to the National Academy of Sciences,” said Chancellor Henry T. Yang. “Professor Peale is an inspiration to colleagues and students alike for his commitment to advancing scientific knowledge. This well-deserved honor is a meaningful recognition from his peers of Stan’s pioneering research and unique contributions to planetary science.”
Mark Srednicki, chair of the physics department, also praised Peale. “I’m extremely pleased to see Stan receive this well-deserved recognition of his scientific accomplishments,” Srednicki said. “Astrophysics at UCSB has been growing by leaps and bounds in recent years, but the effort started many years ago with Stan, and his contributions have been essential. We wouldn’t be where we are today without him.”
“I’m overwhelmed,” Peale said in reaction to news of his election to the academy. “I feel like it’s undeserved, but I will certainly relish the honor. And I will enjoy going to the meeting next year.”
Peale’s research recently showed that small wobbles in Mercury’s orbit, revealed by Earth-based radar data, can be explained only if Mercury’s core is at least partially molten. “This helps us refine our understanding of the process of planet formation, and the likelihood of habitable planets in other solar systems,” Srednicki said.
“Mercury is quite interesting now,” said Peale. “We have a spacecraft going there. Messenger has made two passes already, and it will make another pass in September, and then it goes into orbit in March of 2011. We’re going to learn a lot about Mercury.”