Professors Pierre Kervella of the Paris Observatory and Grzegorz Pietrzyński of the Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw have received the Marie Skłodowska-Curie and Pierre Curie Polish-French Science Award from the Foundation for Polish Science and the French Academy of Sciences for outstanding achievements in science resulting from Polish-French cooperation.
The two world-renowned astronomers were awarded for combining complementary experiments in stellar interferometry and observations of binary stars to precisely determine the distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud and thus create a reference point for measuring distances between galaxies to better measure the expansion of the universe
“World-class science cannot be done in isolation. That is why the Foundation for Polish Science initiates projects that stimulate and emphasize the importance of international scientific cooperation. The Polish-French Science Award bears the name of the great scholars Maria Skłodowska-Curie and Pierre Curie for it is part of the long tradition of cooperation between Poland and France, and I hope it will serve to develop and deepen it even further,” says Professor Maciej Żylicz, President of the Foundation for Polish Science.
The Polish-French Science Award is awarded through a competition every two years. The 2022 edition saw the submission of 52 nominations. The selection of winners was made by a jury of distinguished scholars from France and Poland, appointed by the Foundation for Polish Science and the French Academy of Sciences. The amount of the Polish-French Award is EUR 15,000 for each laureate. The prize is jointly funded by the Foundation for Polish Science and the Zygmunt Zaleski Stichting.
The prize was established in 2019 by the Foundation for Polish Science, the French Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation (MESRI), and the French Academy of Sciences on the occasion of the Polish-French Year of Science. In the first competition, the prize was presented to Professors Marcin Szwed of the Institute of Psychology at Jagiellonian University and Laurent Cohen of the Institute for Brain and Spinal Cord Research (ICM), but also Professor Jakub Zakrzewski of the Department of Physics, Astronomy, and Applied Computer Science at Jagiellonian University and Dr. Dominique Delande of the National Center for Scientific Research in France (CNRS).
Information about the joint research
The scientific collaboration of Grzegorz Pietrzyński and Pierre Kervell has been developing within the framework of the Araucaria Project, which has continued for more than 13 years. The winners are tackling one of the biggest problems in cosmology: the determination of absolute distances in the universe. This is a fascinating and extremely ambitious undertaking, which seeks to determine not only the scale but also the physical nature of various objects. Knowledge of cosmic distances also allows for describing the rate at which the universe is expanding and may lead to revealing the nature of the – so far enigmatic – dark energy. The research by the winners’ teams has made it possible to precisely determine the distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) with an accuracy of 1% (distance of 49.6 kiloparsecs). Their methods include stellar interferometry performed by the French team, while the Polish team focuses on observations of eclipsing binary stars that orbit their centers of mass. Their methodology lets scientists calibrate other methods that will allow measuring distances to very distant corners of the universe. Achieving this goal was possible thanks to the exchange of knowledge and synergistic integration of different research approaches used by the collaborating teams.
About the winners
Grzegorz Pietrzyński (born in 1971 in Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki, Poland) is a Professor of Astronomy at the Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, founder and head of the international Araucaria Project, which aims to calibrate the cosmic distance ladder, and the initiator and director of the Polish Cerro Amazones Observatory in Chile.
Prof. Grzegorz Pietrzyński_photo: Magdalena Wiśniewska-Krasińska_FNP Archives
Pietrzyński graduated from the Faculty of Physics at the University of Warsaw, where he received his Ph.D. and later his habilitation degree. He collaborated with Princeton University, the European Southern Observatory, and he worked at the Warsaw University Observatory for 20 years. He lectured at research institutions in Japan, Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, and China, among other countries. In 2014, he received the title of full professor of physical science.
His scientific output includes more than 400 publications, which have appeared in the most prestigious journals – including Nature, Science, Astrophysical Journal, and Astronomical Journal – which were cited more than 23,000 times.
Pietrzyński is the recipient of many prestigious Polish and foreign research grants, including two prestigious grants from the European Research Council (Advanced and Synergy), the Nature journal award for outstanding scientific contribution, and the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Award in Physics from the Polish Academy of Sciences. Moreover, he received funding from the FOCUS and TEAM programmes of the Foundation for Polish Science and won the 2021 FNP Prize, which is considered the most important scientific award in Poland.
Pierre Kervella (born in 1973 in Annonay, France) is a Professor of Astronomy at Laboratory for Space Science and Astrophysical Instrumentation (LESIA), Paris Observatory at PSL Research University.
Prof. Pierre Kervella_photo: Laurence Honnorat
His research interests include Cepheids and the cosmic distance ladder, high-precision astrometry for stellar and exoplanet physics, and mass loss of red supergiants.
Kervella completed a double master’s degree in astrophysics and space science and in mechanical engineering at the University of Paris. There, he also defended his doctoral thesis and received professorship. He has won numerous awards and grants, organized several prestigious scientific conferences and authored nearly 250 publications (including four in Nature and one in Science).
Besides scientific work, Kervella is involved in educational and advisory activities: he was director of education at the Paris Observatory from 2019 to 2021 and an advisor to the European Commission from 2007 to 2020.
Find out more about:
- The French Academy of Sciences;
- Zygmunt Zaleski Stichting;
- Marie Skłodowska-Curie and Pierre Curie – French-Polish Scientific Award;
- The joint research.