The Canadian scientist, who once helped to establish the presence of water molecules on the sun, says the challenge of monitoring air quality and pollution in the Earth's atmosphere from orbit is at the frontier of research.
Professor Bernath will continue the work in his new appointment in the Department of Chemistry at the University of York.
He is to set up a group at York to work on the Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment (ACE) satellite mission, an international collaboration he helped to establish in his previous post at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.
Professor Bernath has also been appointed director of the Department's laser lab where he will be focusing on pure research into metal-containing transient molecules. He will also work in the University's Department of Physics, teaching in his other great love - molecular astronomy.
He said: "I was at Waterloo for 15 years but I think it is time to try new and interesting things in York. There's a great laser lab here, and there are talented colleagues, good resources and good students. I decided it was time for a new challenge."
Peter Bernath, 52, was educated at the University of Waterloo and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has held academic posts in the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics of National Research Council of Canada in Ottawa, and at the universities of Waterloo and Arizona.
He is moving to York with his wife, Robin, and their younger daughter, Victoria, 18, who will study Music at the University. Their elder daughter Elizabeth is an undergraduate at Waterloo.
Professor Bernath's solar discovery came a decade ago when he and colleagues, including Professor Jonathan Tennyson, of University College London, used spectroscopy to establish the existence of water vapour on the sun by comparing a lab spectrum of water with a solar spectrum of a sunspot.
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