HKU Dean of Science Professor Sun Kwok
Elected as Vice President of International Astronomical Union (IAU) Bioastronomy Commission
28 Aug 2012
Professor Sun Kwok, Dean of Science and Chair Professor of Physics of The University of Hong Kong, was elected Vice President of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Bioastronomy Commission today during the General Assembly of the IAU. He will help the Union to organize world-wide research and education activities including conferences. “I am honored by the community's trust in me to take this new exciting discipline to a higher level. I will try to promote further international collaborations to achieve our science goal of understanding the origin of life,” said Professor Kwok. Bioastronomy is a subdiscipline of astronomy of high current interest, covering the subjects of origin of life on Earth and the search for evidence for extraterrestrial life.
Professor Kwok is widely acknowledged as the world-leading expert in the study of planetary nebulae, a class of spectacular-looking objects formed near the end of a star's life. His theory on the origin of planetary nebulae has revolutionarized our understanding of the death of Sun-like stars. More recently, he has found that planetary nebulae can rapidly synthesize large amount of complex organic compounds, as well as widely spreading them throughout the Milky Way Galaxy; a finding that has significant implications on the origin of life on Earth.
The IAU holds its general assembly once every 3 years and the current (28th) assembly is being held in Beijing. The assembly was opened on August 21 by Mr. Xi Jinping, Vice President of China. The assembly will complete its business and scientific sessions on August 31.
The IAU is the international organization for research and education in astronomy and has over 10,000 members worldwide. It was founded in 1919. It is the official international body for astronomy and is funded through annual contributions by national governments of countries. Its goal is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. Led by Professor Kwok, HKU Science organized its first international astronomical symposium on “Organic Matter in Space” with great success in 2008.
The IAU is also the internationally recognized authority for the official naming of all celestial objects in the sky. In August 2006 at the IAU Assembly held in Prague, an official definition of planet was passed, resulting in the removal of Pluto (冥王星) as a major planet of the solar system. The IAU is also responsible for naming all the asteroids of our solar system, including China (1125, 中國), the first asteroid discovered by a Chinese astronomer, and Jinyong (10930, 金庸), etc.
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Image Caption: Professor Sun Kwok, Dean of HKU Science and Chair Professor of Physics, was elected Vice President of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Bioastronomy Commission.