Priyamvada Natarajan

2 minute read
By Shep Doeleman

For astronomers, seeing evidence in the sky of something predicted from pure theory brings with it a special joy. A burst of excitement as a puzzle piece falls into place.

In November, a novel approach developed years ago by Priyamvada Natarajan brought us closer to under­standing a basic mystery in astron­omy: How do the supermassive black holes that lurk at the centers of most galaxies form? She had speculated that they might have gotten a jump start in the very early universe if clouds of gas collapsed to form massive black-hole “seeds” that then grew within their host galaxies over billions of years. It took the piercing gaze of the James Webb Space Telescope to finally observe a galaxy so far back in cosmic time, and with a central black hole so massive, that what scientists saw could be explained naturally by Priya’s theory.

Priya has a knack for pursuing the most creative research, and as a fellow astronomer, I am always inspired by her work. Her latest result takes us one step closer to understanding our cosmic beginnings.

Doeleman is an astrophysicist and the founding director of the Event Horizon Telescope

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