The European Astronomical Society has announced that the 2012 Tycho Brahe Prize will be awarded to Professor Reinhard Genzel, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to European near-infrared instrumentation and for ground-breaking work in galactic and extragalactic astronomy.
The Tycho Brahe Prize is awarded in recognition of the development or exploitation of European instruments, or major discoveries based largely on such instruments. MPE-Director Reinhard Genzel and his research group were responsible for building the SINFONI near-infrared integral-field spectrograph for the ESO Very Large Telescope. Since its first light in 2005, SINFONI has become a key instrument for the study of the structure and dynamics of distant galaxies as well as of the dynamics of our home galaxy, the Milky Way.
The SINFONI instrument participated, in particular, in monitoring the movement of stars around the galactic centre - in an unprecedented 20-year-long study. The measurement of the orbits of stars near the centre of the Milky Way has allowed astronomers to provide the strongest evidence to date that the centre of the galaxy harbours a supermassive black hole. Recently, his team has also discovered a cloud of gas falling towards the galactic central black hole, which is disrupted by the strong gravitational fields and will ultimately be swallowed by out galactic black hole. (see MPE press release of December 14, 2011)