David Aguilar
(617) 495-7462

Christine Pulliam
(617) 495-7463


CfA Press Release
 Release No.: 02-20
For Release: October 10, 2002

Giacconi Wins Nobel Prize for Research Conducted at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

Cambridge, MA -- Riccardo Giacconi, one of the "founding fathers" of X-ray astronomy, is a co-recipient of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physics. Dr. Giacconi received this award in honor of his work in the field of X-ray astronomy. Much of that work was carried out by him and his colleagues at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) during the 1970s. Giacconi was also at that time a professor in the Department of Astronomy at Harvard University and an Associate Director at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

According to the citation from the prize committee, Giacconi received this award "for pioneering contributions to astrophysics, which have led to the discovery of cosmic X-ray sources."

Giacconi worked at the CfA from 1973 to 1981. During that period, he led the development of the Einstein X-ray Observatory, which was launched in 1978. The Einstein Observatory was the first fully imaging non-solar X-ray telescope put into space. It provided, for the first time, the capability to image extended objects, diffuse emission, and to detect faint sources. It was also the first NASA X-ray mission to have a Guest Observer program.

In 1976, Giacconi and SAO's Harvey Tananbaum submitted a proposal letter to NASA to initiate the study and design of a large X-ray telescope. This proposal led to the construction and launch of the very successful Chandra X-ray Observatory, which is operated from a control center at SAO.

The Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded annually to the person or persons who "have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics." The Nobel Prize was established by Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite. This international award has been given yearly since 1901 for achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace. (A Nobel Prize in Economics was added in 1968.) The prize consists of a medal, a personal diploma, and a monetary award.

Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists organized into six research divisions study the origin, evolution, and ultimate fate of the universe.

For more information, contact:

David A. Aguilar
Director of Public Affairs
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Christine Lafon
Public Affairs Specialist
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Phone: 617-495-7463, Fax: 617-495-7016

Section Photo