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Image: MPI für extraterrestrische Physik
Nobel Prize for Physics 2020
|Year of election:||2002|
Research priorities: experimental astrophysics, black holes, galaxy nuclei, galaxy evolution, high-resolution infrared/submillimeter astronomy, star formation, extragalactic astrophysics
Reinhard Genzel is an astrophysicist. He is one of the world's leading researchers in the field of infrared and submillimeter astronomy. His primary interest is in the formation, evolution, and nuclei of galaxies such as our Milky Way. Genzel is also studying the formation and evolution of black holes and stars. Another field of his research is the interstellar medium. Genzel was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2020. He received the honor jointly with the US astronomer Andrea Ghez for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way.
To study the structure and dynamics of such objects, Genzel and his colleagues have developed a number of new observation techniques and instruments in the fields of infrared, submillimeter and millimeter astronomy. They have thereby succeeded in dramatically improving sensitivity and angular resolution, especially for infrared instruments. Such measuring devices, stationed both on earth and in space, are among the most successful of their time.
With these instruments, Genzel is pursuing a particular observation strategy: Instead of statistical investigations of many objects, the goal is to use a variety of methods to gain a detailed physical understanding of a select few representative sources and thereby specifically investigate some key questions.
Genzel and his colleagues were able to prove through 20 years of award-winning observations that a black hole with 4.3 million solar masses exists at the center of our Milky Way. They thus succeeded in providing the most substantial empirical evidence to date for the existence of black holes, which had been postulated by Albert Einstein at the beginning of the 20th century as part of the general theory of relativity.