Event Horizon Telescope researchers win 2020 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics
Nature & Science

Event Horizon Telescope researchers win 2020 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics


First image of a black holeEvent Horizon Telescope
(EHT) collaboration for obtaining “the first image of a supermassive black hole, taken by means of an Earth-sized alliance of telescopes”. The $3m prize will be shared equally by all 347 authors of six papers that announced the image on 10 April 2019.

The image is a close-up of the region surrounding a supermassive black hole that lies at the centre of the Messier 87 galaxy, which is about 55 million light-years away. Although black holes are inherently invisible, the EHT team obtained the image near the point where matter and energy can no longer escape – the so-called event horizon.

A key feature of the image is a ring-like structure of radiation from the object’s accretion disc. The dark region at the centre of the disc is consistent with expectations for the shadow of a Kerr black hole – one that is uncharged and rotates about a central axis – as predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

The prize will be accepted by collaboration director Shep Doeleman at a ceremony on 3 November at the NASA Ames Research Center in California.

Winners of three 2020 New Horizons in Physics Prize – each worth $100,000 – have also been announced. Xie Chen of the California Institute of Technology, Lukasz Fidkowski of the University of Washington, Michael Levin of the University of Chicago and Max Metlitski of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology share one prize “for incisive contributions to the understanding of topological states of matter and the relationships between them”.

The second prize goes to Jo Dunkley of Princeton University, Samaya Nissanke of the University of Amsterdam, and Kendrick Smith of the Perimeter Institute “for the development of novel techniques to extract fundamental physics from astronomical data”. The third prize is given to Simon Caron-Huot of McGill University and Pedro Vieira of the Perimeter Institute and the South American Institute for Fundamental Research “for work in arithmetic algebraic geometry including applications to the theory of Shimura varieties and the Riemann-Hilbert problem for p-adic varieties”.

The Breakthrough prizes were founded in 2012 by the billionaire physicist Yuri Milner and are awa

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