Two Fermilab scientists share in 2020 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

The Breakthrough Prize Foundation announced on Sept. 5 that two Fermilab researchers who contributed to the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration’s image of a black hole earlier this year are sharing the 2020 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics.

Fermilab scientists Bradford Benson, also of the University of Chicago, and Alexandra Rahlin are members of South Pole Telescope group, which is part of the EHT network. They were co-authors on one of the EHT papers detailing how a team of scientists used an Earth-sized network of telescopes to capture the black hole image.

Benson and Rahlin will share the $3 million prize with the other 345 members of the collaboration.

Bradford Benson

Alexandra Rahlin

Using eight sensitive radio telescopes strategically positioned around the world, a global collaboration of scientists at more than 60 institutions from over 20 countries captured an image of a black hole for the first time. The image matched expectations from Einstein’s theory of gravity: a bright ring marking the point where light orbits the black hole, surrounding a dark region where light cannot escape the black hole’s gravitational pull.

Now in its eighth year, the Breakthrough Prize, known as the “Oscars of Science,” annually recognizes achievements in the life sciences, fundamental physics and mathematics. This year, the Breakthrough Prize Foundation awarded a total of $21.6 million to researchers in these areas.