Max Planck Medal for Rashid Sunyaev

November 22, 2022

On November 17, the German Physical Society announced that it will award the Max Planck Medal, its highest award in Theoretical Physics, to Rashid Sunyaev. Thus the DPG honours “his numerous and fundamental contributions to relativistic astrophysics and to cosmology, in particular for the theoretical prediction of experimentally observed changes in the spectrum of cosmic background radiation passing through galaxy clusters.”

Rashid Sunyaev has worked in many areas of cosmology, relativistic astrophysics, and X-ray astronomy. With his thesis advisor Yakov Zeldovich, he predicted how the spectrum of cosmic background radiation changes as it passes through the hot gas of a galaxy cluster (Sunyaev-Zeldovich effect). His work with Nick Shakura on the structure of accretion disks that form when matter flows into black holes is considered one of the most influential works in modern astrophysics.

Rashid A. Sunyaev studied in Moscow (MIPT), where he also received his Ph.D. and became a professor in 1974. Since 1992 he has been "Chief Scientist" at the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. From 1982 to 2002 he built up the Department of High Energy Astrophysics there. From 1995, he was also a director at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics.

During his 23 years in Garching, he was actively working on the theory of CMB spectral distortions due to energy release in the early Universe, investigating different ways to observe baryonic acoustic oscillations and lines created during cosmological recombination of hydrogen and helium. The theory of accretion onto neutron stars and black holes (of stellar mass and supermassive) continue to be another field of greatest interest for him.

The award, i.e. the golden Max Planck medal as well as a hand-written parchment will be presented to Rashid Sunyaev in March 2023 during the DPG annual meeting in Dresden.  The medal has been awarded annually since 1929, with few exceptions, and usually to a single person. It is the highest award of the DPG for outstanding achievements in the field of theoretical physics. Among the medal recipients are Albert Einstein, Max Planck, Werner Heisenberg and many other outstanding scientists, including several members of the Kaiser Wilhelm and Max-Planck Societies. The list of recipients includes many founders of Quantum Mechanics, Quantum Electrodynamics and other new branches of Modern Theoretical Physics. In 2015, Prof. Vyacheslav Mukhanov from LMU became the first theorist who was awarded the Max Planck Medal for his work in cosmology. Now Rashid Sunyaev joined him in recognition of his achievements in modern CMB cosmology and relativistic astrophysics.

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