Falcke receives the Henry Draper Medal from the National Academy of Sciences. This prize is awarded once every four years. Falcke will receive an amount of 25,000 dollars (more than 20,000 euros), which he will have to share with his American colleague Sheperd Doeleman.
This is the third time that a Dutch scientist has received the medal. In 1921, the prize went to Pieter Zeeman, who had already won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1902. In 1955, the medal was awarded to Hendrik van de Hulst.
Earlier this month, Falcke’s team already received an award from the British Royal Astronomical Society for the image of the black hole. The photo was also named the most significant scientific breakthrough of 2019.
Black holes are places in the universe where the force of gravity is so great that nothing can escape them, not even light. Anything that comes close will be swallowed up and torn apart.
The black holes themselves are therefore not visible, but one can observe where the light distorts and disappears. Falcke called this area “the shadow of the black hole”. This ring of light can also be seen in Falcke’s team’s historic image, the Event Horizon Telescope.
The black hole is at the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy, 55 million light years from Earth. The hole pictured has a diameter of 40 billion kilometers, the shadow that scientists have seen is 100 billion kilometers. The hole is 6.5 billion times as massive as our sun.