Institute of Astronomy

The Kavli Prize in Astrophysics awarded to Andrew Fabian

Published on 27/05/2020 

The 2020 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics is awarded to astronomer and astrophysicist Andrew Fabian for his pioneering research and persistence in pursuing the mystery of how black holes influence their surrounding galaxies on both large and small scales. For decades, researchers have pondered the mechanics and physical processes of galaxies, and many have made discoveries that point to aspects of their inner workings; yet none has the unique vantage point of Fabian: to take a multi-scale understanding and systematically know where to look to put the pieces of the puzzle together and create the bigger picture of this vast ecosystem.

In the current cosmological paradigm, the universe is a ‘living’ system, in which the flows of gas into galaxies and black holes at their centres, and the subsequent release of energy back into the galaxies and their surroundings, all play vital roles. As the darkest objects in the universe, black holes are observed as their gravity attracts surrounding gas, dust and stars, which swirl into them at high velocities, creating intense radiation, much of it X-rays. Observational X-ray astronomy opened up access to view these and other extremely hot and energetic components of the universe, providing stunning evidence for these processes at work, unveiling how the major constituents of the universe can profoundly influence its overall evolution.

Fabian, a professor here at the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, employs X-ray astronomy to explore the physics of the universe. His body of work – from understanding large-scale galactic evolution to the physics of black holes at the centres of galaxies – enabled him to make connections between local conditions around supermassive black holes and the larger gas flows within and between galaxies. This research provided evidence that supermassive black holes at the heart of galaxies are the engines that drive the flow of hot gas out of the galaxy, redistributing energy through the universe and providing the building blocks for future galaxy formation.

“Fabian is one of the most prolific and influential astronomers of our time,” said Viggo Hansteen, chair of the Kavli Prize Committee in Astrophysics. “His research, breadth of knowledge and insights into the universe provided the essential physical understanding of how disparate phenomena in this ecosystem are interconnected.”

More details available at the Kavli Prize website.

Page last updated: 27 May 2020 at 14:25