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ann12036 — Announcement

Tycho Brahe Prize 2012 Awarded to Reinhard Genzel

30 May 2012

The European Astronomical Society [1] has announced that the 2012 Tycho Brahe Prize has been awarded to Professor Reinhard Genzel, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to European near-infrared instrumentation and for groundbreaking work in galactic and extragalactic astronomy.

German astronomer Reinhard Genzel — director of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics — and his team were responsible for building SINFONI, a near-infrared integral-field spectrograph attached to the ESO Very Large Telescope. Since its first light in 2005, SINFONI has become a key instrument for the study of the structure and dynamics of distant galaxies and, in particular, of the dynamics of our home galaxy, the Milky Way.

His team has been involved in an unprecedented 20-year-long study of the movement of stars around the galactic centre, which is based on observations made with ESO’s New Technology Telescope at La Silla Observatory as well as ESO’s Very Large Telescope at Paranal Observatory. The measurement of the orbits of stars near the centre of the Milky Way has allowed astronomers to provide the strongest evidence to date that the centre of the galaxy harbors a supermassive black hole (eso0846). This result has offered an ideal opportunity for investigating the interaction of a massive black hole with its environment.

Recently, his team has also discovered a cloud of gas falling at vertiginous speed towards the galactic central black hole, using the ESO Very Large Telescope. For the first time, astronomers witnessed how a cloud of gas became strongly distorted as it starts the process of being totally ripped apart, devoured by the supermassive black hole located at the centre of the galaxy (eso1151).

The Tycho Brahe Prize is awarded annually in recognition of the development or exploitation of European instruments, or major discoveries based largely on such instruments. It carries a monetary reward of 6000 euros. The prize will be awarded to Professor Reinhard Genzel during the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS) 2012 [2], which will take place in Rome, Italy, from 1–6 July 2012.

Notes

[1] The European Astronomical Society (EAS) was founded in 1990 as an association to contribute and promote the advancement of astronomy in Europe. In particular it deals with astronomical matters at a European level. It is a society of individual members, who are professional astronomers. The EAS is an organisation in which all European astronomers can be members, independent of their field of work, or country of work or origin. The society offers a forum for discussion of all aspects of astronomical development in Europe and is the organisation that represents the interests of astronomers in discussions of Europe-wide developments.

[2] Further information on the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS) 2012, formerly known as JENAM, can be found at the following URL: http://www.ifsi-roma.inaf.it/ewass2012/

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Contacts

Douglas Pierce-Price, Public Information Officer
ESO
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6759
Email: dpiercep@eso.org

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Reinhard Genzel, recipient of the 2012 Tycho Brahe Prize
Reinhard Genzel, recipient of the 2012 Tycho Brahe Prize