UW Astronomy & Physics Alumni Among Breakthrough Prize Awardees

This week the Breakthrough Prize Foundation announced the award of the 2020 Fundamental Physics Prize to the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration, who directly imaged the shadow of a black hole for the first time in the galaxy M87.

The collaboration consists of an international team of 347 scientists, including two University of Washington alumni: Daryl Haggard (PhD Astronomy ’10, now faculty at McGill University) and Jason Dexter (PhD Physics ’11, now faculty at CU Boulder). Each of them were involved in a different aspect: Daryl’s observations of M87 with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory addressed the feeding of the black hole, while Jason Dexter’s simulations of the radiation emitted by the magnetized plasma flow near the black hole were instrumental in interpreting the EHT observations. Their involvement relates back to their graduate student days at UW, when Daryl analyzed X-ray and optical observations of supermassive black holes, like the one in M87 (with advisor Scott Anderson), while Jason developed the algorithms for tracing photons near a black hole using Einstein’s theory of general relativity (with advisor Eric Agol). The $3 million dollar prize will be shared equally amongst the entire collaboration, to be awarded at a televised ceremony later this year. Congratulations to Daryl and Jason for their contributions to this truly breakthrough discovery!

Read the full Breakthrough Prize announcement here.