Michael Penston Thesis Prize

NGC 6357 is a diffuse nebula near NGC 6334 in the constellation Scorpius. The nebula contains many proto-stars shielded by dark disks of gas, and young stars wrapped in expanding "cocoons" or expanding gases surrounding these small stars. It is also known as the Lobster Nebula. It is located about 5500 light years away from Earth.
The Lobster Nebula, NGC 6357
X-ray: NASA/CXC/PSU/L.Townsley et al.; Optical: UKIRT; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Michael Penston Prize for the best doctoral thesis in astronomy or astrophysics (including astrochemistry, astrobiology and exoplanets) is awarded annually.  The winner will receive a cash prize of £1,000 and an invitation to present the results of their thesis at an Ordinary (A&G) Meeting of the RAS. The prize is named after Michael Penston (1943-90). A separate Keith Runcorn Prize is awarded for theses in geophysics (including planetary science).


Nominees are not required to be Fellows of the RAS.

To be eligible, the thesis must have been:

  • Written on a topic in astronomy and astrophysics, including cosmology, astrochemistry, astrobiology etc. However planetary science and solar physics are not included and should be submitted for the Keith Runcorn Prize instead.
  • Submitted to an accredited university in the United Kingdom for the degree of PhD, DPhil or equivalent.
  • Recommended for the award of a doctorate by the examiners i.e. while students do not need to have attended a graduation ceremony, they do need to have successfully defended their thesis in a viva and submitted final corrections which have been approved by their University.
  • Nominations must by received by 31 January in the year following the final approval of the thesis.

To nominate

Nominations should be submitted by 31 January for theses completed the previous year and should include:

  • An online completed Michael Penston Prize nomination form.
  • A nomination, written by the proposer, in the form of a citation (maximum length 500 words).
  • The abstract of the nominee’s thesis.
  • Additionally, please give details of two referees who will be contacted by email and asked to send supporting statements.

Fill out the application form online.