Lower Saxony State Prize was awarded to Bruce Allen, Alessandra Buonanno and Karsten Danzmann

Date: 
23rd August 2016

The prize recognizes contributions to the discovery of gravitational waves

Prof. Dr. Alessandra Buonanno, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute/AEI),
Head of the Division Astrophysical and Cosmological Relativity
© A. Buonanno

Prof. Dr. Bruce Allen, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute/AEI),
Head of the Division Observational Relativity and Cosmology.
© N. Michalke/Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute/AEI)

Prof. Dr. Karsten Danzmann, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute/AEI),
Head of the Division Laser Interferometry and Gravitational Wave Astronomy.
© N. Michalke/Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute/AEI)

Today, the Prime Minister of Lower Saxony Stephan Weil presented Prof. Alessandra Buonanno, Prof. Bruce Allen und Prof. Karsten Danzmann with the Lower Saxony State Award 2016. Alessandra Buonanno is director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute/AEI) in Potsdam, and her colleagues Bruce Allen and Karsten Danzmann are directors of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute/AEI) in Hannover and professors at the Leibniz Universität Hannover. The three scientists have been honored for their fundamental contributions to the first detection of gravitational waves, published in Physical Review Letters. About 100 of the approximately 1000 authors are members of AEI and Leibniz Universität.

The award was presented during a ceremony in Hanover. „The detection of gravitational waves is a worldwide sensation. You have made a decisive contribution to one of the most important scientific discoveries of the century. This is a fine demonstration of the vitality and potential of research in Lower Saxony“, Prime Minister of Lower Saxony Weil emphasized.

In his laudation science writer and astrophysicist Dr. Thomas Bührke summarized the awardees´ role in the detection: „The three conductors of the gravitational wave orchestra presented a stunning world premiere of Einstein´s monumental symphony.“

The jury declared: „All three scientists have made crucial contributions to the detection of gravitational waves in several key areas. In many years of research, they have worked on the development of essential elements for the complex detection, ranging from sophisticated detector technology to theoretical models of gravitational waves and the statistical analysis of the detector data.“ The jury has ten members and is headed by Friedrich von Lenthe, chairman of the VGH Trust (VGH-Stiftung).

„We feel very honored to have been presented with this prestigious award. The discovery of gravitational waves is a collective international effort, with major contributions by scientists from the Albert Einstein Institute and the Leibniz Universität Hannover. We are therefore accepting this prize in the name of the many colleagues without whom the discovery would not have been possible.  The State of Lower Saxony made crucial contributions to our detection. The government recognized the potential of gravitational wave research at an early stage and supported us right from the beginning. With the aid of Lower Saxony, we listened to the sound of the Universe. We are proud and grateful“, the awardees said.

Up to now Lower Saxony has invested about 32 Million Euros into gravitational wave research. It funded e.g. the GEO600 Observatory in Ruthe near Hanover, the initial equipment of the Albert Einstein Institute and contributes to the running costs of the Atlas data analysis cluster. The present government supports development, manufacturing and installation of the world´s most stable laser with 3,4 Million Euros until 2017. These lasers are the heart of the LIGO observatories and enabled LIGO to measure the first gravitational waves.

The Lower Saxony State Award recognizes outstanding achievements in culture, gender equality, social welfare, science, environment or economy of Lower Saxony. The prize was established in 1978 and is endowed with 35,000 Euros. Past recipients of the prize include Nobel Prize laureates Manfred Eigen, Erwin Neher and Stefan Hell as well as the rock band Scorpions.