Black holes are the source of the universe’s most powerful radiation, as well as of jets that can stretch many thousands of light years out into space. Roger Blandford’s theoretical work deals with the violent processes behind these phenomena. Roy Kerr laid the foundation for this research early on, when he discovered a mathematical description of rotating black holes. This became one of the most important theoretical discoveries in modern cosmology.
The prediction of black holes is one of the perhaps strangest results of the general theory of relativity. When Albert Einstein finally presented his theory, in November 1915, he described gravity as a geometric property of space and time, spacetime. All objects with mass bend spacetime; they create a pit into which smaller objects can fall. The greater the mass, the deeper the pit. The mass of a black hole is so great that nothing that ends up in there can escape, not even light.
It was not until 1963 that mathematician Roy Kerr succeeded in solving Einstein’s equations for rotating black holes. That the holes should rotate is feasible because the stars from which they originated should have rotated. At about the same time, astronomers discovered galaxies that emitted light and other electromagnetic radiation that was so strong it outshone several hundred ordinary galaxies. They were named quasars. Nothing other than a black hole could give the quasars their luminosity.
So how is the strong light of rotating black holes created? This question was answered by Roger Blandford and his colleagues in the 1970s. Ever since, he has refined and made more realistic models of how gas surrounding a black hole flows towards it, is heated up and transforms some of its gravitational energy to radiation. While this is happening, electrically charged particles are sent millions of kilometres into space in the form of powerful jets. The source of all of this power is the rotational energy of the massive black hole.
Roy Kerr, born 1934 in Kurow, New Zeeland. Ph.D. 1959 at University of Cambridge, UK. Emeritus Professor at University of Canterbury, New Zeeland.
Roger Blandford, born 1949 in Grantham, UK. Ph.D. 1974 at University of Cambridge, UK. Luke Blossom Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, Stanford University, CA, USA.
Prize amount: 6 million Swedish krona per prize. The Crafoord Prize in Astronomy is shared equally between the Laureates.
Prize award ceremony is to be held at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on 26 May 2015, in the presence of H.M. the King of Sweden.
Crafoord Days 24–26 may 2016 in Stockholm and Lund
Prize Lecture, Tuesday 24 May, Lund University, Lund.
Prize symposium, Wednesday 25 May, Stockholm registration at http://kva.se/events.
Prize ceremony, Thursday 26 May, Beijer hall, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm.
Hans Reuterskiöld, firstname.lastname@example.org
+46 8 673 95 44, +46 70 673 96 50.
Experts of the Prize committeés
Professor Tobias Ekholm, email@example.com, +46 70 552 83 66. Professor Bo Berndtsson, firstname.lastname@example.org, +46 31 772 35 39.
Professor Claes Fransson, email@example.com, +46 8 55 37 85 17.
Professor Bengt Gustafsson, bengt.gustafsson@ physics.uu.se, +46 18 471 59 59.