News

  • In the Media

Albert Einstein was right again. More than 100 years ago, his calculations suggested that when too much energy or matter is concentrated in one place, it will collapse in on itself and turn into a dark vortex of nothingness. Physicists found evidence to support Einstein’s black hole concept, but they’d never observed one directly. In 2017, 200-plus scientists affiliated with more than 60 institutions set out to change that, using eight global radio observatories to chart the sky for 10 days. In April they released their findings, which included an image of a dark circle surrounded by a fiery doughnut (the galaxy Messier 87), 55 million light years away and 6.5 billion times more massive than our sun. “We have seen what we thought was unseeable,” said Shep Doeleman, leader of what came to be known as the Event Horizon Telescope team. The team’s name refers to the edge of a black hole, the point beyond which light and matter cannot escape. In some ways, the first picture of a black hole is also the first picture of nothing.

  • Accolades

The 347 scientists from around the globe who worked together to capture the first-ever image of a black hole have won the 2020 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. The Breakthrough Prize Foundation announced today that members of the international Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) Collaboration were selected for this honor, with the citation: “For the first image of a supermassive black hole, taken by means of an Earth-sized alliance of telescopes.”

The $3-million prize will be shared equally among all contributing scientists named on the six EHT papers published on April 10, 2019, in conjunction with the public unveiling of the black hole image—the first direct evidence of a supermassive black hole and its shadow.In addition to Gammie, U of I’s EHT research team members named Breakthrough Prize laureates include current physics graduate students George Wong and Ben Prather; current astronomy graduate student Andrew Nadolski; former astronomy graduate students Ben Ryan (now an R&D scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory), Dimitrios Psaltis (now an astronomy professor at The University of Arizona), and Hotaka Shiokawa (now a data scientist at Rakuten Institute of Technology); and former physics postdoctoral researchers Monika Moscibrodzka (now an astrophysics professor at Radboud University, the Netherlands) and Roman Gold (now a postdoctoral researcher at Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, Germany). Each of these scientists will receive upwards of $8,600 in prize money.

  • In the Media

Humankind’s first image of a monster black hole, the tangled proteins that cause destructive neurodegenerative diseases, and the pathways telling our brains we’re in pain are among the discoveries honored by this year’s Breakthrough Prizes.

With $3 million accompanying each major prize, the Breakthrough Prizes are the most lucrative in science. Bankrolled by Silicon Valley titans, including Yuri Milner and Mark Zuckerberg, the prizes honor cutting-edge achievements in life sciences, physics, and mathematics. And unlike some other well-known science prizes, it’s not unusual for the Breakthrough team to honor teams rather than a few select individuals.

  • Research
  • Astrophysics

The Event Horizon Telescope Project announced that it has captured the first image of a black hole. The feature is located at the center of Messier 87 – a giant elliptical galaxy in the constellation Virgo. News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian spoke with University of Illinois physics and astronomy professor Charles Gammie, who heads up the theory working group for the large, multi-institutional collaboration.

  • Research
  • Astrophysics
  • Astronomy

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT)—a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes forged through international collaboration—was designed to capture images of a black hole. Today, in coordinated press conferences around the globe, EHT researchers revealed that they have succeeded, unveiling the first direct visual evidence of a supermassive black hole and its shadow.

The image reveals the black hole at the center of Messier 87 (M87)1, a massive galaxy in the nearby Virgo galaxy cluster. This black hole resides 55 million light-years from Earth and has a mass 6.5 billion times that of the Sun2.

  • Accolades

Thirty-eight research groups at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been allocated new computation time on the Blue Waters supercomputer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). This round of allocations provides over 17 million node-hours, equivalent to over half a billion core hours, and is valued at over $10.5 million, helping Illinois researchers push the boundaries of innovation and frontier science discovery.

  • Accolades
  • Astrophysics/Cosmology
  • Astrophysics
  • Cosmology

Professor Charles Gammie has been named a 2015 Simons Fellow in Theoretical Physics by the Simons Foundation.

Gammie, who has joint appointments in astronomy and physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will use the fellowship to continue his leading-edge theoretical work in black hole astrophysics, while on sabbatical next academic year at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. While abroad, Gammie will also enjoy an appointment as a visiting fellow at All Souls College in Oxford, for the fall (Michaelmas) term.