Black Hole Scientists Receive Prestigious Science Prize
19 January 2012
Earlier today, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2012 Crafoord Prize in Astronomy to Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for their separate work on proving the existence of the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy.
German astronomer Reinhard Genzel is director of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, located in Garching on the same campus as ESO’s headquarters. His team has been involved in an unprecedented 20-year-long study of the movement of stars around the galactic centre, which is based on observations made with ESO’s New Technology Telescope at La Silla as well as ESO’s Very Large Telescope on Paranal.
The tracking of the orbits of these stars over many years has enabled astronomers to provide the strongest evidence yet of the presence of a supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy, as evidenced by the tight orbits of the stars due to the powerful gravitational forces near the black hole.
Recently, they discovered a cloud of gas falling at vertiginous speed towards the black hole. For the first time, the astronomers have been able to see it become increasingly distorted by pressure and tidal forces, before it is totally ripped apart.
The Prize award ceremony will be held in Lund on 15 May 2012. The Prize symposia in mathematics and in astronomy will take place on 14 May 2012, and the Prize lectures on 15 May 2012.
The Crafoord Prize is an annual science prize. It is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and is intended to promote international basic research in the fields of Astronomy and Mathematics, Geosciences and Biosciences. These disciplines are chosen so as to complement those for which the Nobel Prizes are awarded.
- The Crafoord Prize press release from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
- ESOcast episode 39 on the cloud of gas approaching the black hole
- ESO press release on the black hole study from 2008
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