From the Nominator
Black holes are some of the most mysterious objects in the universe. Predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity, scientists had inferred the existence of these monsters that consume entire stars through indirect measurements and observations, but no one had ever actually seen a black hole...until now. On April 10, 2019, researchers with the globe-spanning Event Horizon Telescope collaboration unveiled the first image of a supermassive black hole and its shadow, lurking at the center of M87, a galaxy in the Virgo cluster 55 million light-years away. The historic accomplishment was recognized with the 2020 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics on Sept. 5. Taking an image of a black hole was only possible because scientists and institutions worldwide united in an unprecedented effort to synthesize an Earth-sized telescope. The University of Arizona integrated two of the eight radio telescopes that were synced to work as one globe-spanning virtual telescope to achieve the resolution power needed–the equivalent of detecting an orange on the moon. The EHT collaboration included 36 University of Arizona researchers and students. The UA also pioneered Nvidia graphics processor-powered supercomputing, used commonly for video gaming, to help analyze the gigantic amounts of data–5,000 trillion bytes (enough to populate a playlist of high-quality music files lasting 4,700 years). The UA also led the way in creating realistic simulations of the physical processes governing black holes, which were used to cross-check the expected results, and to create accurate and stunning simulations of black hole environments.
From the Judges
This entry is impressive. The strategies implemented were strategic and thorough. The team conducted interviews five months in advance, conveyed the technical and scientific content so that audiences understood, while also maintaining the essence of the story. Additionally, the use of visual aids, such as animations and virtual reality, is compelling. The campaign also garnered national media coverage. This stands as a great model for other institutions, as there was even an on-campus tie in with Admitted Students Day—brilliant!