Luciano Rezzolla is the Chair of Theoretical Astrophysics at the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Frankfurt, Germany. His main research topics are astrophysical compact objects such as black holes and neutron stars, which he investigates by means of numerical simulations on supercomputers.

Black holes are the most compact objects in the universe: no object of can be made smaller than a black hole with the same mass. This means that also astronomically large black holes, which can have a mass of billions of solar masses, effectively appear as extremely small when projected in the sky. This very trivial fact makes black holes very hard to study and indeed for many years the scientific community has considered it impossible to take a photo of a supermassive black hole. This inability to perform observations has hindered our scientific progress simply because we cannot test which theories about black holes are correct and which are not. The combined effort of almost two hundreds of scientists and a bit of good luck have allowed the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration to do what was thought to be technologically impossible: take a picture of a black hole. A particularly important aspect of this scientific challenge has been the theoretical interpretation of the observations and the understanding that what the images are showing us is the light of matter falling onto the black hole. This was possible only thanks to sophisticated computer simulations, many of which were performed in Frankfurt, that describe what happens to matter as it accretes onto a black hole and emits light when falling. These simulations have given Luciano Rezzolla and his team the confidence that what they are seeing are the first images of supermassive black holes.

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