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10 October 2022

GeoPlanet School: 2022/2023 Inaugural Lecture

The inauguration of the academic year at the GeoPlanet Doctoral School will take place on October 11, 2022, at 11:00 a.m., online and will be streamed on YouTube. The inaugural lecture of the 2022/2023 academic year, entitled “Seeing the Invisible: Revealing the Darkest Secret of the Milky Way,” will be given by Maciek Wielgus (Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany).

There is a supermassive object in the center of our Galaxy, and its name is Sagittarius A*. For decades scientists studied Sagittarius A* to learn about its true nature. Much like detectives, astronomers around the world carefully gathered evidence and discussed different theories. Finally, we created a virtual telescope with the size of the whole planet Earth – the Event Horizon Telescope, and used it to take pictures of the Galactic Center. These images, published in May 2022, are our best proof that Sagittarius A* is actually a giant black hole. In this talk I will discuss how our understanding of this object changed in time, how it became possible to take a picture of a black hole, and what makes us so confident about the true nature of the Sagittarius A*.

Maciek Wielgus is a Polish astrophysicist, working in the fields of radio astronomy and physics of black holes and neutron stars. He started his academic career in astronomy at Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center in Warsaw. Since 2017 he has been involved in the Event Horizon Telescope project, working as a Black Hole Initiative Fellow at Harvard University, Cambridge, USA. Together with the Event Horizon Telescope team he published the first image of the M87* black hole in 2019, and recently the first image of Sagittarius A* – the supermassive black hole in the center of our Galaxy. Together with the Event Horizon Telescope team he received many prestigious awards including the Albert Einstein medal, Bruno Rossi Prize, Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, and National Science Foundation Diamond Achievement Award. He authored over a hundred scientific research papers. Currently he works at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany.

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