Who is Dr Karan Jani & What Does He Have to Do With the Discovery of a New Black Hole?

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Who is Dr Karan Jani & What Does He Have to Do With the Discovery of a New Black Hole?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

The discovery of a massive collision between two black holes has excited the scientific community, thanks to how it has furthered understanding of black holes and how they are formed. The black hole detected by scientists at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the European Virgo consortium is 142 times the mass of our sun, having been formed when two, smaller black holes collided with each other roughly seven billion years ago. The new black hole’s discovery is significant because its size confirms previously believed theories about the existence of “intermediate black holes”, which are between 100 to 1,000 times the mass of our Sun. The Indian connection to this massive discovery is Dr Karan Jani, a Vadodara-born astrophysicist who worked with LIGO on the research that led to this momentous discovery.

Dr Jani, who holds a PhD in black hole physics from Georgia Institute of Technology, as well as two Bachelor of Science degrees in physics and astronomy-astrophysics, with a minor in mathematics, from the Pennsylvania State University, is a well-known name in the field of astrophysics. Speaking on the significance of this new discovery, he said, “This detection confirms that there is a vast universe that has remained invisible to us. We have very limited theoretical and observational understanding of this elusive class of intermediate black hole… Our ability to find a black hole a few hundred kilometres-wide from half-way across the Universe is one of the most striking realisations of this discovery.”

In 2017, Dr Jani was a member of another team, which worked on the Nobel Prize-winning research that helped detect the existence of gravitational waves. These same gravitational waves are used by researchers to detect the existence of black holes, including this latest discovery. Jani was also named in Forbes list of “30 Influential Scientists under 30”. This groundbreaking discovery of the black hole is another feather in his cap.

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