Margaret Kivelson, professor emerita in UCLA’s Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences, has been selected as the winner of the 2017 Gerard P. Kuiper Prize for outstanding contributions to planetary science by the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences. The prize recognizes and honors outstanding contributors to planetary science and is awarded to scientists “whose achievements have most advanced our understanding of the planetary system.”  The Kuiper Prize is the highest award presented by the society to a planetary scientist.

Kivelson is being honored for her studies of Jupiter’s magnetospheric plasmas to understand the interiors of planets and their moons. Her pioneering discoveries of an ocean inside Jupiter’s moon Europa and a magnetic field generated by neighboring Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon, “showed us that these icy bodies are not inert but dynamic worlds,” the AAS citation says. “Her insights have spurred us to recognize that habitability need not depend on proximity to the sun in the traditional habitable zone,” the citation continues. “As a direct result of Dr. Kivelson’s advancements, we now recognize that the ocean worlds of the outer solar system may represent our best chances for discovering life beyond Earth.”