Two Kippenhahn laureates this year

The submissions for the Kippenhahn prize this year were both excellent and at the same time completely different, so that the jury decided to split the prize and award it jointly to Florian Hanke and Francesco de Gasperin. In his paper "Is strong SASI activity the key to successful neutrino-driven supernova explosions?", Florian Hanke studied these violent events at the end of a star’s lifetime in three dimensions and compared the results to two-dimensional models. Francesco de Gasperin worked on analysing radio data in a big, complex project and published his results in the paper "M87 at metre wavelengths: the LOFAR picture."

Fig. 1: Prize winner Florian Hanke (second from left) with his supervisor Hans- Thomas Janka, MPA director Simon White and Ewald Müller as representative of the selection committee.
© H.-A. Arnolds, MPA

Fig. 2: Prize winner Francesco de Gasperin (left) with MPA director Simon White, his supervisor, MPA director Guinevere Kauffmann and Ewald Müller as representative of the selection committee.
© H.-A. Arnolds, MPA

Florian Hanke started to work on a generalization of the existing core-collapse supernova simulation code to three spatial dimensions. Intended to be a learning experience of the code and supernova physics, he tried to reproduce the results of a competing group, which had claimed –based on a simplified setup– that 3D explosions develop considerably easier, faster, and more energetically than in two dimensions. However, despite very careful and tedious tests he could not confirm the findings of the other group. His paper immediately received very wide attention (with nearly 70 citations so far) and seeded a controversy; meanwhile several other groups have confirmed the validity of Florian’s results. This demonstrates that in science progress is not only linked to fast and prominent publication of new findings but also to tedious and careful verification tests – this kind of work should be valued much more than it often is.

Atypical for a paper selected for the Kippenhahn prize, Francesco is the first author of 96. He works with LOFAR data, a project that involves a large consortium of astronomers from many different institutions and countries. When Francesco entered the LOFAR data pipeline team, the infrastructure did not exist yet but with the help of colleagues from the Netherlands, he threw himself into the centre of the project and quickly became a knowledgeable technical expert himself. He was awarded significant time during the early commissioning phase to observe the centre of the Virgo cluster, which harbours a supermassive black hole. Francesco’s observations placed important constraints on past activity of this active nucleus and his detailed spectral analysis of the extended radio-halo showed that a continuous injection of relativistic electrons into the intra-cluster medium is the model that best fits the data - the first significant science result to emerge from the LOFAR project. As a "pioneer", Francesco was willing to face great struggles and the real possibility of failure – LOFAR is now set to produce great science.

Regrettably, former MPA-director Rudolph Kippenhahn, the donor of the prize, could not be at the institute in person for the ceremony on 20th September but congratulated the laureates from afar. Established in 2008, the prize recognises originality, impact on science and the quality of writing for the best scientific paper written by a student at MPA during the previous year.

Original publications:

Florian Hanke, Andreas Marek, Bernhard Müller, and Hans-Thomas Janka, "Is strong SASI activity the key to successful neutrino-driven supernova explosions?", The Astrophysical Journal 755 (2012) 138 linkPfeilExtern.gif

F. de Gasperin, et al., "M87 at metre wavelengths: the LOFAR picture", Astronomy & Astrophysics 547 (2012) A56 linkPfeilExtern.gif