“Testing the Massive Black Hole Paradigm with High Resolution Astronomy” with Reinhard Genzel (Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Germany)

The discovery of the Quasars in the 1960s led to the ‘massive black hole paradigm’ in which most galaxies host massive black holes of masses between millions to billions of solar masses at their nuclei, which can become active galactic nuclei and quasars when they accrete gas and stars rapidly. I will discuss the major progress that has happened in the last decades to prove the massive black hole paradigm through ever more detailed, high resolution observations, in the center of our own Galaxy, as well as in external galaxies and even in distant quasars. In the Galactic Center such high resolution observations can also be used to test General Relativity in the regime of large masses and curvatures.
Reinhard Genzel is an infrared- and submillimetre astronomer. He and his group are also engaged in developing ground- and space-based instruments for astronomical observations. They use these to track the motions of stars at the centre of the Milky Way around Sagittarius A*, and showed that these stars are orbiting a very massive object, now known to be a black hole. Genzel and his group are also active in studies of the formation and evolution of galaxies and active galactic nuclei. Reinhard Genzel was awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics (jointly with Andrea Ghez and Roger Penrose) “for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the centre of our galaxy”.
Genzel had studied at Freiburg University and Bonn University, finishing his PhD in 1978 at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn. As a postdoc he worked at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts; he was a Miller Fellow, then Associate Professor and in 1981 he became Full Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1986, Genzel became director at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching (near Munich) and in 1988 also Honorary Professor at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. From 1999 to 2016, he had a joint appointment as Full Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is now emeritus professor. Prior to the Nobel prize, Reinhard Genzel had received numerous awards, among them the Herschel Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (2016), the Tycho Brahe Prize of the European Astronomical Society (2012) and the Karl Schwarzschild Medal of Astronomische Gesellschaft (2011).

This webinar was recorded on July 15, 2021