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Event Horizon Telescope honoured by the Royal Astronomical Society

The Group Achievement Award, bestowed upon a group that includes several Perimeter researchers, recognizes outstanding achievement by a large consortium within astronomy.

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration has received the 2021 Group Achievement Award in astrophysics from the Royal Astronomical Society in the United Kingdom. The EHT is a global network of observatories that work in unison to observe radio sources associated with black holes.

In April 2019, EHT researchers stunned the world with humanity’s first image of a black hole.

“This image has already inspired millions and will continue to do so. It represents an important milestone in human ingenuity and scientific endeavour, and is opening new doorways to study the physics of accretion around super-massive black holes in completely unprecedented ways,” the Royal Astronomical Society writes in its prize citation.

“The realization of the EHT represented a formidable challenge and was made possible only by decades of hard work and commitment by 13 stakeholder institutions, a variety of agencies, and more than 340 researchers. This is one of the finest examples of an achievement resulting from close collaboration by researchers from around the world,” the citation said.

Among those 13 stakeholder institutions, Perimeter is the lone Canadian organization, with several faculty, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate students sharing in today’s honour.

Avery Broderick – the Delaney Family John Archibald Wheeler Chair at Perimeter Institute and an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo – has been one of the driving minds behind the EHT for two decades. His team devised predictive models and simulations that were crucial to the EHT’s development and conducted analyses on the vast amounts of data obtained through its observations.

“It is a great honour to hear that the Royal Astronomical Society, home to Newton, Herschel, and Eddington, has decided to recognize our work,” Broderick says. “We continue to be awed by the impact our work has had, both popularly and professionally.”

“We’re very pleased to see the entire EHT team recognized in this way,” says Perimeter Director Robert Myers. “The first image of a black hole was a landmark achievement and a testament to the power of innovative thinking. Perimeter is proud to be a partner in this remarkable international collaboration.”

The EHT’s work did not conclude with its historic first image, which showed the shadow cast by the black hole in M87, an elliptical galaxy 55 million light years from Earth. The collaboration continues to add new instruments and develop innovative science to open new windows onto what was once thought to be unseeable.

EHT collaboration team in Hawaii in 2019
Members of the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration at a meeting in Hilo, Hawaii in December 2019

“The images and subsequent analysis of M87 published thus far is merely the beginning,” says Broderick. “We have now entered the era of horizon-imaging, with the transformative science that enables.”

Broderick concluded by reflecting on the importance and particular relevance of group awards like this one: “In a time beset by division and difficulty, we remain extremely proud to be an example of how a group of more than 300 people, distributed across five continents and time zones that cover the clock, can come together and produce something extraordinary.”

Perimeter thanks the Royal Astronomical Society, and congratulates the entire Event Horizons Telescope team.

About PI

Perimeter Institute is the world’s largest research hub devoted to theoretical physics. The independent Institute was founded in 1999 to foster breakthroughs in the fundamental understanding of our universe, from the smallest particles to the entire cosmos. Research at Perimeter is motivated by the understanding that fundamental science advances human knowledge and catalyzes innovation, and that today’s theoretical physics is tomorrow’s technology. Located in the Region of Waterloo, the not-for-profit Institute is a unique public-private endeavour, including the Governments of Ontario and Canada, that enables cutting-edge research, trains the next generation of scientific pioneers, and shares the power of physics through award-winning educational outreach and public engagement. 

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