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Indian-origin US scientist Srinivas R Kulkarni awarded the prestigious Shaw Prize in Astronomy for 2024

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Bangalore: Kulkarni, who serves as the George Ellery Hale Professor of Astronomy and Planetary Science at Caltech has been awarded the Shaw Prize in Astronomy for 2024 for his groundbreaking discoveries on millisecond pulsars, gamma-ray bursts, supernovae, and other transient astronomical phenomena. The award citation further states that Kulkarni’s “contributions to time-domain astronomy culminated in the conception, construction, and leadership of the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) and its successor, the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), which have revolutionized our understanding of the time-variable optical sky.”

One of his numerous accomplishments includes serving as the director of Caltech Optical Observatories from 2006 to 2018. Kulkarni’s pioneering work in time-domain astronomy, notably through the Palomar Transient Factory and the Zwicky Transient Facility, has significantly enhanced the understanding of the dynamic sky. The Shaw Prize Foundation stated, “The Shaw Prize in Astronomy is awarded to Shrinivas R. Kulkarni for his ground-breaking discoveries about millisecond pulsars, gamma-ray bursts, supernovae, and other variable or transient astronomical objects.”

Developed by the late Hong Kong philanthropist Run Run Shaw, the Shaw Prize consists of three annual awards in Astronomy, Life Science and Medicine, and Mathematical Sciences, each with a monetary award of USD 1.2 million.

This year marks the 21st time the prize been awarded. Run Run Shaw, who is known for his philanthropy in education, scientific research, healthcare, and the arts, established the Shaw Prize, sometimes called the “Nobel of the East,” The Shaw Foundation Hong Kong and The Sir Run Run Shaw Charitable Trust continue to support these areas.

Kulkarni’s career is distinguished by numerous notable achievements. As detailed in his biography on Caltech’s website, he received his Master of Science degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in 1978 and his PhD from the University of California in 1983. He led the Caltech Optical Observatories as director from 2006 to 2018, significantly advancing the field of observational astronomy. Kulkarni has received many awards, including the National Science Foundation’s Alan T. Waterman Award and the Dan David Prize. He has also authored or co-authored more than 60 papers in the journal Nature by the age of 60.

Under Kulkarni’s guidance, the Palomar Transient Factory made several discoveries in astronomy. The Zwicky Transient Facility has continued this work, helped astronomers study, and understand transient cosmic events. These projects have allowed scientists to observe and analyse short-lived astronomical phenomena, greatly expanding our knowledge of the universe.

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