Washington, D.C.— Carnegie astronomer Mark Phillips, interim director of the Las Campanas Observatory, is one of a group of scientists being honored with the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics.

The prize recognizes “major insights into the deepest questions of the Universe” and is being shared by two research teams, the Supernova Cosmology Project and the High-Z Supernova Search Team, of which Phillips is a member.

Pasadena, CA—Quasars are supermassive black holes that live at the center of distant massive galaxies. They shine as the most luminous beacons in the sky across the entire electromagnetic spectrum by rapidly accreting matter into their gravitationally inescapable centers. New work from Carnegie’s Hubble Fellow Yue Shen and Luis Ho of the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics (KIAA) at Peking University solves a quasar mystery that astronomers have been puzzling over for 20 years. Their work, published in the September 11 issue of Nature, shows that most observed quasar phenomena can be unified with two simple quantities: one that describes how efficiently the hole is being fed, and the other that reflects the viewing orientation of the astronomer.