The team behind the first black hole image receives US $3-million prize. 347 scientists collaborated to produce the image.
The team that produced the world’s first black hole image was honored Thursday with the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. Scientists received the “Oscar of Science” along with $3 million. This is one of the most lucrative awards in science and mathematics.
Prize representatives said in a statement that the prize “will be shared equally among the 347 scientists co-authoring any of the six papers published by the EHT April 10, 2019,” meaning each co-author will get about $8,646.
Shep Doelman directed the international Event Horizon Telescope team. The team made headlines across the world on April 10 by publishing the image of the M87 black hole.
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The image shows the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy Messier 87. It lies around 17 parsecs (55 million light-years) from Earth. You can see a flame-orange halo of white-hot plasma surrounding the black hole’s event horizon. Beyond the event horizon, gravity’s pull is so strong that not even light can escape.
The team spent over a decade simulating an Earth-sized computational telescope which combined the signals received by eight radio telescopes working in pairs around the world with their sights trained on the Messier 87 (M87) galaxy, 55 million light-years away.
Doeleman recalls how risky it was in the early days: “We went out to telescopes, sweated blood and sometimes came back empty-handed.”
Not only the image allowed us to see a black hole for the first time ever, but it also confirmed theoretical predictions about the structure of these celestial objects.
Silicon Valley entrepreneurs launched the Breakthrough Prize in 2012 to reward breakthroughs in basic research.
Winners from the other categories, life sciences, and mathematics, also took home $3 million. The prize will be given at a gala awards ceremony on November 3, at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.