Press Release

2012 Crafoord Prize in Astronomy Goes to Genzel & Ghez

By SpaceRef Editor
January 19, 2012
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The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Crafoord Prize in Astronomy 2012 to Reinhard Genzel, Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Germany and Andrea Ghez, University of California, Los Angeles, USA, “for their observations of the stars orbiting the galactic centre, indicating the presence of a supermassive black hole”.

The Dark Heart of the Milky Way

This year’s Crafoord Prize Laureates have found the most reliable evidence to date that supermassive black holes really exist. For decades Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez, with their research teams, have tracked stars around the centre of the Milky Way galaxy. Separately, they both arrived at the same conclusion: in our home galaxy resides a giant black hole called Sagittarius A*.

Black holes are impossible to observe directly — everything in their vicinity vanishes into them, virtually nothing is let out. The only way of exploring black holes is to investigate the effects their gravitation has on the surroundings. From the motions of stars around the centre of the Milky Way, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez, and their colleagues, estimated the mass of Sagittarius A* at nearly four million times solar masses. Sagittarius A* is our closest supermassive black hole. It allows astronomers to better investigate gravity and explore the limitations of the theory of relativity.

About the Laureates

Reinhard Genzel, German citizen. Born 1952 in Bad Homburg vor der Hoehe, Germany. Ph.D. 1978 at Universitaet Bonn, Germany. Professor at University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA and Scientific Director of Max-Planck-Institut fuer extraterrestrische Physik, Garching, Germany.

Andrea Ghez, American citizen. Born 1965 in New York City, NY, USA. Ph.D. 1992 at California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA. Professor at University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

Media Contact:
Erik Huss
[email protected]
+46 8 673 95 44, +46 70 673 96 50

Prize-Committee Contacts:
Prof. Bengt Gustafsson
[email protected]
+46 184 715 959, +46 730 588 734

Prof. Arne Ardeberg (chair)
+46 462 227 290, +46 703 697 005

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Prize amount: SEK 4 million per prize [about US $590,000]. The Prize award ceremony is held in Lund on 15 May 2012 in the presence of H.M. the King and H.M. the Queen of Sweden.

The Crafoord Days 14-15 May 2012, Lund: Prize symposia in mathematics and in astronomy 14 May, and Prize lectures and Prize award ceremony 15 May.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, founded in 1739, is an independent organization whose overall objective is to promote the sciences and strengthen their influence in society. The Academy takes special responsibility for the natural sciences and mathematics, but endeavors to promote the exchange of ideas between various disciplines.

SpaceRef staff editor.