Dr. Anrea Ghez “From the Possibility to the Certainty of a Supermassive Black Hole” – Co-hosted by the Maria Mitchell Association
The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association welcomes Nobel prize winning astrophysicist Dr. Andrea Ghez for public lecture at Nantucket Atheneum
The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) is excited to welcome Nobel-prize winning astrophysicist Dr. Andrea M. Ghez to Nantucket for a public lecture entitled “From the Possibility to the Certainty of a Supermassive Black Hole.” The lecture will be held in the Great Hall of the Nantucket Atheneum on Monday, August 14 at 7pm.
Dr. Ghez, professor of Physics & Astronomy and Lauren B. Leichtman & Arthur E. Levine chair in Astrophysics, is one of the world’s leading experts in observational astrophysics and heads UCLA’s Galactic Center Group. Best known for her ground-breaking work on the center of our Galaxy, which has led to the best evidence to date for the existence of supermassive black holes, she has received numerous honors and awards including the Nobel Prize in 2020. She became just the fourth woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, sharing one half of the prize with Reinhard Genzel (the other half of the prize being awarded to Roger Penrose).
The Nobel Prize was awarded to Ghez and Genzel for their Independent discovery of a supermassive compact object, now generally recognized to be a black hole, in the Milky Way’s galactic center. Ghez’s work on the orbits of stars at the center of the Milky Way has opened a new approach to studying black holes and her group is currently focused on using this approach to understand the physics of gravity near a black hole and the role that black holes plays in the formation and evolution of galaxies.
During her lecture Ghez will describe her work that led to the winning of the Nobel Prize. Through the capture and analysis of twenty years of high-resolution imaging, her UCLA Galactic Center Group has moved the case for a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy from a possibility to a certainty and provided the best evidence to date for the existence of these truly exotic objects. This was made possible with the first measurements of stellar orbits around a galactic nucleus. Further advances in state-of-the-art of high-resolution imaging technology on the world’s largest telescopes have greatly expanded the power of using stellar orbits to study black holes. Recent observations have revealed an environment around the black hole that is quite unexpected – young stars where there should be none; a lack of old stars where there should be many; and a puzzling new class of objects. Continued measurements of the motions of stars have solved many of the puzzles posed by these perplexing populations of stars. This work is providing insight into how black holes grow and the role that they play in regulating the growth of their host galaxies. Measurements this past year of stellar orbits at the Galactic Center have provided new insight on how gravity works near a supermassive hole, a new and unexplored regime for this fundamental force of nature.
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The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) is a private non-profit organization. Founded in 1902, the MMA works to preserve the legacy of Nantucket native astronomer, naturalist, librarian, and educator, Maria Mitchell. The Maria Mitchell Association operates two observatories, a natural science museum, an aquarium, a research center, and preserves the historic birthplace of Maria Mitchell. A wide variety of science and history-related programming is offered throughout the year for people of all ages.