Preston astronomer wins in ‘Oscars of Science’ for black hole breakthrough

Posted on - 29th September, 2019 - 12:00pm | Author - | Posted in - People, Preston News, UCLan, University campus
Never before seen first images of the black hole
Never before seen first images of the black hole

An astronomer from the University of Central Lancashire has been recognised in the ‘Oscars of Science’ for his role in producing the first image of a black hole.


UCLan‘s Professor Derek Ward-Thompson is one of the 347 world-leading scientists who formed the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration. The scientists will share the 2020 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, which is worth three million dollars.

Professor Ward-Thompson said: “This is a great honour for the team to receive this award. It is a truly international collaboration and it was a remarkable achievement. The Breakthrough Trust are to be thanked for their generous acknowledgment.”

Read more: Preston astronomer reveals how he helped take first-ever picture of a black hole

Using eight sensitive radio telescopes positioned around the world in Antarctica, Chile, Mexico, Hawaii, Arizona and Spain, the global collaboration of scientists captured an image of a black hole for the first time. By synchronising each telescope using a network of atomic clocks, the team created a virtual telescope as large as the Earth.

One of the eight telescopes was the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii, which is part-owned by UCLan, and Professor Ward-Thompson worked with the imaging team to produce the picture.

Professor Ward-Thompson said: “The team is currently working on producing images of other black holes and as we refine our techniques, the results will reveal even more about these extraordinary cosmic objects.”

Professor Derek Ward-Thompson
Professor Derek Ward-Thompson

Collaboration Director Shep Doeleman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics will accept the prize on behalf of the collaboration.

He said: “The award is a powerful testament to the impact our results are having, not only within astronomy, but across many fields of science and with the general public. This is an outstanding recognition of the EHT as a world-wide collaboration.”

The EHT collaboration will be recognised on 3 November at the 2020 Breakthrough Prize ceremony at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.

Read more: Preston’s university up 30 places in UK rankings as 2019 freshers arrive in the city

What do you think of Professor Ward-Thompson’s achievement? Let us know in the comments below.

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