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Genzel Wins $1M Shaw Prize

Photonics.com
Jun 2008
GARCHING, Germany, June 11, 2008 -- The leader of an international team that showed the Milky Way galaxy has a supermassive black hole at its center has been awarded the $1 million Shaw Prize in Astronomy.

Genzel.jpgReinhard Genzel, director of the Max Planck Institute for extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching, received the award from the Shaw Prize Foundation in Hong Kong. Genzel is a scientific member of the Max Planck Society and heads the group for Infrared and Submillimeter Astronomy at the MPE. He is also a professor in the physics department of the University of California, Berkeley, and an honorary professor at Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Germany.

"By developing state-of-the-art astronomical instruments and carrying out a tour-de-force program of observing our galactic center for many years at the highest possible angular resolution (in part aided with the novel technique of adaptive optics), Reinhard Genzel and his MPE team have made decisive measurements that have proven the existence of a black hole with a mass a few million times that of the sun in the center of the Milky Way," the Shaw Prize Foundation said in a statement.

The existence of such a supermassive black hole was first proposed in 1969 by Donald Lynden-Bell and Martin Rees, but evidence for such an object was lacking at the time because the center of the Milky Way (located in the southern constellation Sagittarius) is obscured by interstellar dust and was detected only as a relatively faint radio source.

Genzel's group had followed the motion of several stars around the galatic center since 1992. In 2002, the group obtained compelling evidence for the black hole by developing astronomical instruments to be used on the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) telescopes and carrying out a persistent program of observing the galactic center and its surrounding stars for many years, which ultimately led to the discovery of a black hole with a mass of about three million times that of the sun.

It is now thought that such supermassive black holes are present in the centers of nearly all massive galaxies and that they play a fundamental role in the formation and evolution of these galaxies.

The Shaw Prize was established by Run Run Shaw in 2002 and is presented annually in the areas of life sciences and medicine, mathematical sciences, and astronomy.

Sharing the 2008 Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine are Ian Wilmut, Keith Campbell and Shinya Yamanaka for showing that mammalian cells can be reprogrammed into early stem cells, work that holds great promise for the treatment of human diseases and improvements in agriculture practices, the foundation said.

Wilmut is chair and director of Reproductive Biology at The Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh; Campbell is a professor of animal development, School of Biosciences at the University of Nottingham; and Yamanaka is a professor at the Institute for Frontier Medical Science, the Kyoto University, Japan. Wilmut and Campbell, who conducted research together for years, will split one half of the $1 million prize, while Yamanaka will receive the other half.

The Shaw Prize in Mathematical Sciences will be split by Vladimir Arnold, chief scientist at Steklov Mathematical Institute in Moscow and a professor at the Université Paris in Dauphine, France, and Ludwig Faddeev, a director of the Euler International Mathematical Institute, Petersburg Department of Steklov Institute of Mathematics, Russia, for their contributions to mathematical physics.

Arnold and his colleagues contributed to the study of stability in dynamical systems, exemplified by the motion of the planets around the sun. Faddeev has made important contributions to quantum physics, the foundation said, by showing, with Boris Popov, the right way to quantize non-Abelian theory which underlies contemporary work in subatomic physics.

The presentation ceremony for the 2008 awards is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 9, in Hong Kong.

For more information, visit: www.shawprize.org/en/index.html


GLOSSARY
adaptive optics
Optical components or assemblies whose performance is monitored and controlled so as to compensate for aberrations, static or dynamic perturbations such as thermal, mechanical and acoustical disturbances, or to adapt to changing conditions, needs or missions. The most familiar example is the "rubber mirror,'' whose surface shape, and thus reflective qualities, can be controlled by electromechanical means. See also active optics; phase conjugation.
astronomy
The scientific observation of celestial radiation that has reached the vicinity of Earth, and the interpretation of these observations to determine the characteristics of the extraterrestrial bodies and phenomena that have emitted the radiation.
black hole
A hypothetical cosmic phenomenon in which the mass and density of a star pass a critical point so that the escape velocity matches the speed of light. For this reason, light and matter are "captured'' by the black hole and cannot escape.
photonics
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
resolution
1. In optics, the ability of a lens system to reproduce the points, lines and surfaces in an object as separate entities in the image. 2. The minimum adjustment increment effectively achievable by a positioning mechanism. 3. In image processing, the accuracy with which brightness, spatial parameters and frame rate are divided into discrete levels.
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