Daniel KunthCredit: Innovaxiom

On November 26, 2019, Daniel Kunth received the Germaine Prize and André Lequeux, presented by the Académie des Sciences during an exceptional ceremony under the dome of the Institut de France.

This award recognizes the successful and multi-faceted career of Daniel Kunth, a researcher at the Institut d'astrophysique de Paris since 1980. He has contributed to the development of research on the physics of galaxies and their formation of stars, particularly using spatial telescopes like Hubble and FUSE. He is an expert on dwarf galaxies known as “starburst” and quasars (or active nuclei of galaxies). His thesis on dwarf galaxies led him to specify the value of helium abundance in the Universe. His later works established, with his collaborators, a notable difference in the enrichment in heavy elements (carbon, oxygen etc.) between the ionized gas and the neutral gas that these objects contain. He has also highlighted, in these galaxies, the presence of stars with strong stellar wind, known as Wolf-Rayet, that are in addition more numerous than expected. His work, taken up in a wider collaboration, confirms that the presence of these stars signifies the brevity and intensity of the star formation episodes in dwarf galaxies.

In recent years, after obtaining the first images of dwarf galaxies in the Lyman alpha line with the Hubble Space Telescope, he has initiated, with many French and foreign collaborators, an international program to study this radiation. This line, due to the ionized hydrogen, makes it possible to characterize the interaction between the massive stars and the interstellar medium. It also makes it possible to search for galaxies until the very remote period known as reionization of the Universe. Daniel Kunth is also working on supernovae in collaboration with Armenian researchers from the Byurakan Observatory.

Convinced of the need to disseminate knowledge to the general public, Daniel Kunth, in addition to his research activity, has worked towards making science accessible to all. He initiated the “Star Night” at the national level, in partnership with amateur astronomy associations. This annual success has made French astrophysics visible to the public. He is credited with writing several books including “The words of heaven” (CNRS editions) and “Is astrology an imposture?” (CNRS editions), the latter taking up the torch of the “Union Rationaliste”, of which he is a member.

Through a transversal approach, he used many media, such as CD-books (“The ears in the stars” in collaboration with the writer Jacques Lanzmann and the artist Michel Boujenah), multimedia shows for planetariums, 3D movies, and talks in schools or prisons. He recently designed, as curator-author, the permanent exhibition of the “Pole Planetarium” of the city of Vaulx-en-Velin. He started in 1985, with Trinh Xuan Thuan, the first IAP symposium which has now become an annual and international event in the institute. He took over in 2000, the scientific programming of the public conferences given the first Tuesday of every month at the IAP, which had been initiated in 1995 by Jean Mouette (communication manager).


puce  The Germaine and André Lequeux prize

Web editing: Valérie de Lapparent
Layout: Jean Mouette

November 2019

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