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European Astronomical Society 's MERAC Prize to Aris Tritsis for Best PhD Thesis in Theoretical Astrophysics conducted at the University of Crete and FORTH

Mar 06, 2020

The European Astronomical Society has announced the award of the 2020 MERAC Prize for Best PhD Thesis in Theoretical Astrophysics to Dr. Aris Tritsis (https://eas.unige.ch/merac_prizes.jsp). The award represents the highest distinction of the European Astronomical Community for doctoral studies.

Dr. Tritsis received his Ph.D. from the Physics Department of the University of Crete (UOC), conducting research on star formation and the astrophysics of interstellar clouds, at the University of Crete and the Institute of Electronic Structure and Laser (IESL) of the Foundation for Research and Technology – Hellas (FORTH), under the supervision of Prof. Konstantinos Tassis. Their discovery, published in 2018 in the prestigious journal Science, that the interstellar cloud Musca is vibrating as a whole, with its "song" revealing its three-dimensional structure, attracted great interest both from the scientific community and the general public.

Dr. Tritsis studied Physics at the University of Ioannina, pursued postgraduate studies in Astrophysics at the University College London, and came to Crete in 2014 for his doctoral studies. He graduated in 2017 and has since continued his research career in Australia as a postdoctoral fellow at the Australian National University.

His research achievements are numerous and important. During his doctoral research, he discovered the origins of striations – elongated structures observed in interstellar clouds which, despite their generally chaotic form, often exhibit patterns resembling a corduroy fabric. Dr. Tritsis showed that their origin can only be magnetohydrodynamic waves propagating in the gas. Under the right conditions, these waves can be trapped in the cloud, causing their universal vibration. Such interstellar “songs” are a real treasure trove for astrophysicists. Decoding them can reveal information about clouds that is otherwise inaccessible, such as their three-dimensional shape (as in the case of Musca), and the magnetic field permeating them. Dr. Tritsis also simulated chemical reactions inside these clouds with unprecedented accuracy, identifying which chemicals in interstellar clouds carry the most information about the process of star formation. He developed an algorithm to simulate the propagation of radiation through the cloud, which allows to accurately predict the observable properties of each theoretical model of the star-formation process. After graduating, during his postdoctoral fellowship at ANU, he developed a new method for the three-dimensional mapping of the magnetic fields in our Milky Way galaxy. Such a map will have a wide variety of applications in Astrophysics.

The University of Crete and FORTH congratulate Dr. Tritsis for this highly prestigious award. Moreover, they express their particular joy and pride for the international recognition of the research activities of the Astrophysics Group (UOC & FORTH), which, after its “coming of age” within the Institute of Electronic Structure and Laser, constitutes the heart of the newly established FORTH Institute of Astrophysics.

The press release document of EAS is at: https://eas.unige.ch/documents/eas_prizes_2020.pdf