Francesca Rizzo is awarded the Otto Hahn Medal

Congratulations to Francesca Rizzo, who has just been awarded the Max Planck Society's "Otto Hahn Medal" for her original and groundbreaking work into the kinematic and dynamical properties of high-redshift galaxies.


With the aim of motivating the young scientists to pursue a career in research, every year the Max Planck Society awards the Otto Hahn Medal for outstanding scientific achievements to the most talented early career researchers. This year, one of the awardees was Francesca Rizzo, a postdoctoral fellow at the Cosmic Dawn Center.

As with most of these awards, the prize was conferred to Francesca Rizzo for the work she did in connection with her Ph.D. studies, which were carried out at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, supervised by Simona Vegetti and Simon White.

Understanding galaxies

During her Ph.D. studies, Francesca Rizzo investigated the kinematics and dynamics of distant galaxies — that is, the internal motion of gas, one of the main ingredient making up galaxies.

Studying the most distant galaxies is difficult because they are small and faint. Sometimes, however, astronomers are lucky that they line up with a massive foreground galaxy, or even a cluster of galaxies. In this case, the gravity may amplify the light of the background galaxy, making it easier to see, or even split the image up in multiple images on the sky, as well as distort the images.


Because of this distortion, astronomers must be careful when interpreting the observed images. In her thesis, Francesca Rizzo developed a novel technique that is able to reconstruct the structure and kinematics of the background galaxies.

Not only did Rizzo develop this technique; she also applied it to radio observations conducted with the Atacama Large Millimeter Array in Chile. Surprisingly, her analysis showed that galaxies in the early Universe was more ordered and less turbulent than expected from galaxy formation and evolution models.

The Otto Hahn Medal is accompanied by a prize of €7,500.


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