"Paolo Farinella" Prize 2012 Winner

The Board of the 2012 Farinella Prize (W. Bottke, J. Fernandez, F. Marzari, A. Morbidelli, P. Paolicchi, S. Weidenschilling) unanimously has awarded John E. Chambers (Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington DC, USA) the Prize for the present year.

John Chambers has been an active, energetic, and pioneering researcher on the topic of the formation and early evolution of the solar system. His accomplishments include significant scientific advances in cometary and planetary dynamics in our own solar system and extrasolar planetary systems, as well as the construction of numerical tools that have enabled breakthroughs in planet formation work.

Some of John's earliest work dealt with the stability of multi-planet systems and the formation of the terrestrial planets from planetesimals and planetary embryos. He has published several papers along these lines that describe the likely compositional make-up of the terrestrial planets. These works explore the nature of the projectile that hit the Earth in the Moon-forming event, the possibility that embryos once occupied the asteroid belt, and the source of Earth’s water and other volatiles. These papers helped spread new concepts about how terrestrial planet formation might work, and supported the scenario in which embryos existed throughout the inner solar system.

In conjunction with his theoretical analysis, John began to work on the numerical tools needed to model planet formation. The algorithms he developed over a series of papers led to the open-source code "Mercury", which has been made freely available to the public. This code has become the workhorse for many of the integrations done in this field using massive bodies, and has led to major advances in our understanding of planet formation.

In more recent years, John has worked on the formation of extrasolar planets, as well as the origin of planetesimals by turbulent concentration mechanisms. His algorithms have also been used to help determine the orbits of detected exoplanets. His reviews of the field of planet formation have also been very useful in allowing others to follow developments in this fast-moving field.