Missouri S&T graduate to receive 2020 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

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On September 23, 2019

Missouri S&T physics graduate Dr. Frederick K. Baganoff will receive the 2020 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics as one member of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) Collaboration. Baganoff is a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. He earned a bachelor of science degree in physics from Missouri S&T in 1985.

As a collective, a $3 million prize will be shared equally among 347 scientists who co-authored any of the six papers that documented the first image capture of a black hole. The papers, which were published by the EHT on April 10, 2019, can be found online at rol.la/EHTpapers.

Dr. Frederick K. Baganoff

Baganoff, an expert in observational high-energy astrophysics, has worked with the EHT Collaboration since 2009 and co-authored two of the papers: “First M87 Event Horizon Telescope Results. I. The Shadow of the Supermassive Black Hole,” a summary of the project, and “First M87 Event Horizon Telescope Results. V. Physical Origin of the Asymmetric Ring,” an analysis of the data.

When Baganoff entered the EHT project, he was also lead researcher for the team that discovered the flaring of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.

The Breakthrough Prize, now in its eighth year, is known as the “Oscars of Science.” The prize recognizes achievements in the life sciences, fundamental physics and mathematics disciplines that ask the biggest questions and seek the deepest explanations. Each prize is $3 million.

The Breakthrough Prize Foundation and its founding sponsors – Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, Ma Huateng, Yuri and Julia Milner, and Anne Wojcicki – are awarding the 2020 recipients a total of $21.6 million in recognition of important achievements.

Baganoff will be recognized at the Breakthrough Prize gala awards ceremony on Sunday, Nov. 3, at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. The ceremony will be broadcast live on the National Geographic Channel. This year’s theme – “Seeing the Invisible” – is inspired by the black hole image captured by the EHT collaboration.

“We are honored that Dr. Baganoff spent his undergraduate years in Missouri S&T’s physics department and was a recipient of the University of Missouri Curators’ Scholarship,” says Dr. Thomas Vojta, Curators’ Distinguished Professor and chair of physics. “Our astrophysics initiative continues to build on our legacy of space science. With S&T’s current participation in the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) Scientific Collaboration and the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment (HETDEX), we now have cutting-edge research groups in gravitational wave physics and in cosmology.”

Missouri S&T’s astrophysics program trains scientists who will extend the legacy established by alumni such as Baganoff; NASA astronauts Thomas Akers, Dr. Janet Kavandi and Dr. Sandra Magnus; NASA scientists Ron Epps and Paul Blackmon; and Dr. John Asher Johnson of Harvard University, Vojta says.

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