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.

January 11, 2019

Professor Dr. Dr. h.c. Bernard F. Schutz, director emeritus at and founding director of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute; AEI) in Potsdam will receive the 2019 Eddington Medal. The Royal Astronomical Society recognises Schutz’ work from 1986 in which he showed how to determine distances to gravitational wave sources and to use them to measure the expansion of the Universe in a new and independent way. The award ceremony will take place in July at the National way using gravitational waves and electromagnetic observations. The award ceremony will take place in July at the National Astronomy Meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society.

“I am delighted to be receiving the Eddington Medal. It is wonderful to have this recognition from my fellow astronomers and astrophysicists of the importance that work I did over 30 years ago has achieved today,” says Bernard Schutz. “This is more than a recognition of work done 30 years ago; the pleasure of getting this recognition is a reward for having dedicated much of my career to reaching the goal of opening the field of gravitational wave astronomy. And that I will receive this medal 100 years after Eddington himself provided crucial proof of the validity of Einstein’s theory makes it a special honour indeed.”

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 come 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.

Bernard 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 deputy director of the of the Data Innovation Institute 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.

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