In its first lecture since before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Green Bank Observatory welcomed Professor Dr. Françoise Combes as its 57th Annual Jansky Lecturer.
Through her lecture, “Symbiosis Between Black Holes and Galaxies,” Combes shared her research into black holes and their relationship to galaxies, including our galaxy, the Milky Way.
Combes was introduced by GBO director Jim Jackson, who shared Combes’ achievements in her field.
“Françoise is being honored for her significant contributions to the fields of galaxy formation and evolution, the interstellar medium, dark matter and radio astronomy,” he said. “Her expertise in a wide range of fields over the course of an outstanding scientific career has extended her influence to the entire field of astronomy.
“She has authored, co-authored more than twelve hundred papers,” he continued. “Extraordinarily prolific, she has received more than thirty-four thousand citations in scientific literature, which is also very impressive. In her side time, she has also managed to write twenty books.”
Combes received her PhD in astrophysics from the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, France, and is currently a professor at the Collége de France, where she is the chair of the galaxy and cosmology department.
In addition to receiving the 2023 Karl G. Jansky Lectureship, Combes has received several awards in the astronomy field, including the gold medal for the French National Center of Science and Research, a fellowship in the American Astronomical Society, the R.M. Petrie Prize of the Canadian Astronomical Society, the Tycho Brahe Prize from the European Astronomical Society, the L’Oréal-UNESCO International Prize for Women in Science and is an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society.
“Her reach is truly international,” Jackson said. “She has performed exemplary service to the astronomical community through her career, including vice president of French Science Academy, president of the French Astrophysical Society, long time editor of Astronomy and Astrophysics – a top ranked journal in the field – and she has taken on key advisory roles for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, the Square Kilometer Array, the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Astronomical Union.”
The Karl G. Jansky Lectureship was first awarded in 1966 in honor of the father of radio astronomy.
“He was the first person to discover radio waves from celestial objects,” Jackson said. “A replica of his antenna sits out on the lawn here. He was working for the telephone company trying to figure out a new technique – a crazy idea – of transmitting voice sounds with radio waves and was looking for sources of interference with that radio. He found that lightning was a source of interference, but he found this other hiss – and this other hiss turned out to be the center of our Milky Way.
“We owe our legacy to the work of Karl Jansky,” he added.
The Lectureship is awarded to a distinguished astronomer who, like Jansky, has made significant advancements in radio astronomy. It was established by the trustees of The Associated Universities, Inc. and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.