Thomas Marsh, prolific and enthusiastic astronomer, dies at age 60

The University of Warwick professor was pronounced dead after a nearly two-month search of the Atacama Desert.
By | Published: December 2, 2022 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
University of Warwick

Described by a long-time colleague as excited about all things astronomy and science, Thomas Marsh, an astronomer at the University of Warwick, is looked upon fondly after his unexpected passing. Marsh was 60 years old.

Marsh graduated from the University of Cambridge. For many years, he studied binary star systems and deep-sky objects, publishing 17 papers with Nature and Science, according to a release from the University of Warwick.

He won the Royal Astronomical Society’s Herschel Medal in 2018 for his work on the Doppler Tomography technique in the late 80s. This technique allowed for more accurate measurements of the masses of white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes, just to name a few. 

More recently, Marsh became intrigued by what could be revealed with multi-messenger astronomy — combining electromagnetic, neutrino, and gravitational-wave signals to explore the universe’s most extreme objects. 

He was also instrumental in bringing the astronomy and astrophysics program at Warwick to life. Professor of astronomy Don Pollacco, who was a friend and colleague, knew Marsh for the past 30 years. He told Astronomy Marsh’s work is what inspired him to move from Belfast to join the team.

Despite their different fields of focus — Pollacco concentrates on space missions — Marsh always maintained a desire to learn more.

“He was always willing to ask the hard questions, but he never had an attitude about it,” Pollacco said.

Marsh went missing Sept. 16 after visiting the La Silla European Southern Observatory in Chile. After nearly two months of searching, his body was found in the surrounding Atacama Desert and later identified on Nov. 10.

Despite Marsh’s unexpected passing, Pollacco believes the astronomer’s eccentricities and enthusiasm, along with his scientific contributions, will live on for years to come.

“He had such good knowledge,” Pollacco said. “That is a lot of what people are going to miss.”