A Keck Observatory astronomer who led the way to the discovery of a super-massive black hole at the center of our galaxy has been recognized this week with the 2012 Crafoord Prize in Astronomy, an award almost as prestigious for astronomers as a Nobel Prize.
“This is a big one. I’m thrilled,” said Andrea Ghez of the University of California at Los Angeles. For more than 16 years Ghez and her team have been pushing the frontiers of high-resolution imaging technologies with the twin 10-meter Keck telescopes in order to explore the center of the Milky Way. By tracking the rapid, small-scale orbits of stars at the Galactic Center, they discovered the presence of a source of tremendous gravity – the best evidence yet that a supermassive black hole exists there. The reality of such an object confronts and challenges our knowledge of fundamental physics.