3 July 2019: Eddington Medal for Bernard Schutz
Director emeritus at the AEI in Potsdam will be awarded this year’s Eddington Medal by the Royal Astronomical Society.
July 01, 2019
“I am delighted to be receiving the Eddington Medal. It is a wonderful recognition of my work. In 1986, I discovered that we can determine the expansion of the universe using gravitational waves. It took 31 years until my prediction was applied and confirmed. When gravitational waves from two merging neutron stars were detected in August 2017 this was a really big moment for me. Based on my theoretical work it was possible for the first time to directly determine the Hubble constant and thus the expansion of the universe,” says Bernard Schutz.
The Eddington medal
The Eddington Medal is awarded by the Royal Astronomical Society for investigations of outstanding merit in theoretical astrophysics. It was first awarded in 1953 to the cosmologist Georges Lemaître who proposed the expansion of the Universe on theoretical grounds.
Bernard Schutz is the 43rd recipient of the Eddington medal. The award recognizes his 1986 work on how to determine the expansion of the Universe in a novel and independent way with gravitational-wave and electromagnetic observations. He showed that gravitational waves from collisions (mergers) of two neutron stars or black holes are “standard sirens” carrying information about their distance to Earth. For neutron stars, an optical observation of the explosion caused by the merger can provide the cosmological redshift. Combining these two observations yields the Hubble constant, a measure for the expansion of the Universe.
A prediction comes true after 31 years
GW170817, the first gravitational-wave signal from a binary neutron star merger detected by the LIGO and Virgo detectors on 17th of August 2017, made Schutz’ prediction of a gravitational-wave based determination of the Hubble constant come true after 31 years. Many more binary neutron star merger signals are expected to be observed through gravitational waves in the next years, which can provide an increasingly precise and independent Hubble constant measurement.
“The observations we have made so far are just the beginning. As detectors improve, and as we go into space with the LISA mission, we will use this tool to answer many questions about the history of the Universe,” explains Schutz.
After studying physics at Clarkson University, New York, USA, Schutz obtained his PhD in 1972 at the California Institute of Technology. After 21 years at Cardiff University, Wales, UK as Lecturer and Reader and Professor for Physics and Astronomy he became one of the founding directors of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute; AEI) in Potsdam in 1994. As director of the Astrophysical Relativity department he played a major role in building up the institute until his retirement in 2014. Currently he is director emeritus at the AEI, and professor of physics and astronomy in Cardiff.
Bernard Schutz has developed important principles for the observation of the universe with gravitational waves and plays a leading role in the development of both earth-based and space-based gravitational wave observatories. He pioneered the use of supercomputers to solve Einstein’s field equations and study black holes. He founded the world-leading open-access journal family Living Reviews and has become well known for his contributions to physics education and outreach.
Schutz has been awarded the 2006 Amaldi Medal by the Italian Society of General Relativity and Gravitation (SIGRAV) for his important contributions to gravitational physics.