David J. McComas
The 2022 Hannes Alfvén Medal is awarded to David J. McComas for pioneering scientific contributions and technical achievements in solar-terrestrial sciences and in our understanding of the heliosphere and its interaction with the interstellar medium.
David J. McComas, of Princeton University, has made numerous pioneering scientific contributions in understanding the plasma processes in the solar system, ranging from the terrestrial magnetosphere, the solar corona and reaching out to the outer heliosphere and its interaction with the local interstellar medium. David McComas has been also a leader in developing innovative measurement techniques for space missions and has provided vital service to the community, ranging from scientific advisory work at the highest levels to teaching and mentoring.
McComas has developed space instruments throughout his entire career, starting with the solar wind instrument on the joint ESA/NASA Ulysses mission over the poles of the Sun. He served/serves as PI or instrument lead on instruments onboard missions as the ACE solar wind explorer, the New Horizons mission to Pluto, Juno to Jupiter, Cassini to Saturn, the Parker Solar Probe, and as PI for the entire TWINS, IBEX, and IMAP missions.
He then used the new observations from his numerous instruments and missions to drive the entire space plasmas physics field forward. Seminal contributions and discoveries include the three-dimensional structure of the solar wind over the solar cycle, an explanation of the Voyager paradox of absence of anomalous cosmic rays at the edge of our heliosphere via particle acceleration at a blunt termination shock, diverse plasma populations and structures down Jupiter’s deep magnetotail, or the IBEX “ribbon” of enhanced energetic neutral atom emissions from the outer heliosphere. Other world-renowned contributions of McComas to space science are the characterisation of the temporal variations and evolution of the outer heliosphere, a warmer local interstellar medium than previously believed, or the first direct observations of interstellar pickup ions in the solar wind from 22 to 38 astronomical units.
These are just a few of David McComas’ scientific contributions, that have resulted in the exceptional record of publishing over 720 refereed papers, generating over 39,000 citations, and with an h-index of 100. Beyond these impressive numbers, many of his accomplishments defined the state-of-the-art in space plasma physics. His solar wind observations with the Ulysses mission, for example, are probably in every modern textbook about space plasma physics. Under his leadership and through his innovative approaches, he has propelled the community to observe, discover, and understand the rich, complex, and dramatic behaviours of the space plasma environments of Earth, Moon, Sun, outer planets, and our nearby interstellar medium.
David McComas, deeply committed to international collaboration, has also been a member of and/or chaired numerous space physics advisory and scientific committees, reflecting the high regard in which he is held and his ability to accomplish results in a committee setting. David McComas has as well been dedicated to students with mentoring and training the next generation of space physics explorers, and has been taking steps to include a broad variety of qualified and enthusiastic team members in substantial roles in his many space mission related activities.
For all these reasons, the 2022 EGU Hannes Alfvén Medal is awarded to David J. McComas.