2018 Richard Glazebrook Medal and Prize

Professor Michele Dougherty of Imperial College London for her scientific leadership of the Cassini magnetic field instrument at Saturn and the European Space Agency (ESA) JUICE study team, leading to mission selection to explore the environs of Jupiter.

Michele Dougherty 2018 Glazebrook Medallist
© Royal Society

Professor Michele Dougherty is distinguished for her scientific leadership as Principal Investigator for the key magnetic field instrument aboard the international NASA-ESA Cassini-Huygens spacecraft, which orbited Saturn, and for her leadership on the international study of the Europa Jupiter System Mission (EJSM). She is also distinguished for her leadership of the European-only mission study of JUICE (JUpiter ICy moon Explorer), subsequently selected as ESA’s first large class mission, due for launch in 2022. She has served on numerous committees, most recently as chair of the UK Space Agency's Science Programme Advisory Committee.

She leads a 30-plus Cassini team of scientists and engineers from the UK, the US, Germany and Hungary. Her most important discovery – for which she received the 2007 IOP Chree Medal and the 2008 Royal Society Hughes Medal – is that Saturn’s small moon Enceladus outgasses water vapour. In 2005, magnetic perturbations near the moon led her to suggest that Saturnian field lines were draped around Enceladus – therefore the moon had an extended atmosphere acting as an obstacle to the plasma flow.

She persuaded the Cassini Project of the profound implications of these results and consequently a follow-on Enceladus flyby was re-directed closer to the moon (173km altitude), allowing detailed exploration of this potential atmosphere. The data confirmed that a plume filled with water vapour, dust and hydrocarbons emanated from cracks on the icy south polar surface.

The magnetic field instrument was also centre-stage in Cassini's ‘Grand Finale’, a sequence of very close fly-bys culminating in a plunge into the planet. The carefully processed data promises to unravel the enigma of Saturn's planetary magnetic field.
She was the scientific lead of the European team studying EJSM, as well as co-lead of the Joint NASA-ESA Science Definition Team. The joint mission consisted of an ESA-led Jupiter Ganymede Orbiter and a NASA-led Jupiter Europa Orbiter. In early 2011, due to NASA funding constraints, ESA requested a European-only mission study led by Dougherty, resulting in the JUICE mission selection in 2012. She has subsequently been selected as magnetometer instrument Principal Investigator, leading team members from the UK, Germany, Austria, Hungary, France, Belgium, Japan and the US.

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