Garik Israelian

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Garik Israelian
Garik Israelian.jpg
Born1963 (age 55–56)
Alma materYerevan State University
Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias
AwardsVictor Ambartsumian International Prize (2010)
The Canary Islands Gold Medal (2014)
Scientific career
FieldsPhysics, Astronomy, Spectroscopy
InstitutionsUtrecht University
Free University of Brussels
University of Sydney
Geneva University
Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias
Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory

Garik Israelian (Armenian: Գարիկ Իսրայելյան, born 1963) is an Armenian-Spanish astrophysicist and scientist, author of over 500 scientific publications with 6500 citations on subjects who led the team which found the first observational evidence that supernova explosions are responsible for the formation of stellar mass black holes.[1]


Early life[edit]

Garik Israelian was born in Yerevan, Armenia in 1963. He graduated from Yerevan State University in 1987 with a First Class Honors degree in Physics, and completed his PhD in 1992.


Israelian has since worked as a lecturer/researcher in the Universities of Utrecht (The Netherlands), Brussels (Belgium), and Sydney (Australia). Since 1997 he has been a Principal Investigator for the project "Stellar chemical abundances: clues on the formation of the Galaxy, black holes and planets" [2] at the Institute of Astrophysics, Canary Islands (IAC), and a Professor at the University of La Laguna, Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain). The IAC operates the largest optical telescope in the world: the 10.4-meter GTC located on the island of La Palma.

Garik Israelian has spoken at 67 international conferences and published more than 250 scientific articles on subjects ranging from the discovery of extrasolar planets to the properties of low mass x-ray binaries with black holes and neutron stars. Israelian's discoveries were widely covered by BBC, CNN, Russia Today, Euronews, TVE, NBC, RTL etc., and reflected in special publications in dozens of national (Spain) and international newspapers (New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Le Monde, Der Spiegel,The Times etc.) and magazines (Nature, Science, Science News, Scientific American, Discovery etc.).

Brian May (the guitarist of the legendary rock band Queen) credits Israelian in his PhD thesis as "... my prime collaborator in resuming this work ... more than anyone else responsible for helping me through the final stages of this PhD work".[3][4]

Israelian has supervised six Doctoral dissertations, and lectured 32 hours post- graduate courses on Stellar Atmospheres and Radiation Transfer at the Universities of Geneva (Switzerland) and Tokyo (Japan). Israelian is a trusted referee of the scientific magazines Nature, Science, Astrophysical Journal, Astronomy and Astrophysics, MNRAS. He collaborated and published articles with, amongst others, Prof. Hans Bethe (Nobel Prize Physicist) and Prof. Cornelis de Jager (former General Secretary of the International Astronomical Union, President of the Committee on Space Research and President of the International Council of Scientific Unions). Israelian is a member of many professional societies and associations (IAU, SAE, AAS, ASP).

The most important scientific contribution of Israelian is considered the article published in 1999 in Nature. Two hundred years after the original idea by John Michell regarding the existence of black holes in the Universe, Israelian led an international collaboration (based on the data collected with the 9 m Keck telescope in Hawaii), which provided the first observational evidence that supernova explosions are responsible for the formation of black holes.[1] This discovery of Israelian et al. has been cited by Stephen Hawking in his public lecture ¨Quantum Black Holes” (Starmus Festival, 2014, Tenerife). Israelian has worked with Prof. Hans Bethe (Nobel Prize in Physics) and Prof. Gerry Brown (University of Stony Brook) and published a highly cited theoretical article "A Theory of Gamma Ray Bursts" in the magazine New Astronomy.[5]

In 2001 he proposed the so-called “Lithium-6 test” aiming to check if a star has engulfed a planet or gaseous/solid matter.[6] The latest discovery of Israelian published in 2009 in Nature has been highlighted as "60-Year-Old Solar Mystery Finally Explained" by National Geographic, Discovery, BBC, USA Today etc.[7] An international team of scientists led by Israelian has provided the explanation of anomaly low abundance of Lithium in the atmosphere of the Sun (being an enigma for 60 years) and linked this fact with the presence of planets in the solar system. In 2009 Israelian was invited to speak at TED Global in Oxford.[8]

In June 2016, Israelian appeared on Larry King Now with Stephen Hawking to discuss STARMUS, artificial intelligence, and cosmology.[9]

On 20 June 2016 the International Astronomical Union and the Minor Planet Center officially renamed asteroid 21057(1991 GJ8) to Garikisraelian in honor of Israelian [10]. The citation was written by Astronomer Joel Parker and Queen guitarist Brian May and presented by them at the Starmus festival.[11]

STARMUS Festival[edit]

Starmus Festival

In 2011, Israelian founded the STARMUS Festival. The first Starmus Festival, "50 years in space: Poyekhali", was a heartfelt tribute to the pioneers of the space race focusing on a “Tribute to Yuri Gagarin”, fifty years after his first ever space flight on April 12, 1961.[12] Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong made a unique appearance as keynote speaker. Neil Armstrong, together with Brian May, Garik Israelian, Alexei Leonov, Richard Dawkins, Jill Tarter, Leslie Sage and Nobel Prize scientists George Smoot and Jack Szostak have joined the highly acclaimed Starmus round-table discussion “108 minutes”. Starmus I also featured a cast of fellow astronauts and cosmonauts both in successive miss ions of Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft such as Alexei Leonov, the first human to perform a spacewalk, Viktor Gorbatko, Bill Anders (Apollo 8), Jim Lovell (Apollo 13), and the legendary Buzz Aldrin, pilot of Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing in history, and Charlie Duke (Apollo 16), the tenth man to walk on the lunar surface.

Another highlight of STARMUS I was the performance of the pioneering ambient and space rock band “Tangerine Dream” with their characteristic "cosmic" sound; they were later joined by Brian May on stage to perform together. Following the concert, Tangerine Dream and Brian May produced the CD: “STARMUS: Sonic Universe”.[13] A unique book ¨STARMUS: 50 years of Man in Space” was edited by Garik Israelian and Brian May.[14] The Foreword of the book was written by Stephen Hawking who also attended the presentation of the book. [15]

The second Starmus Festival addressed the theme "Beginnings: The Making of the Modern Cosmos” from a multidisciplinary point of view and took place from September 22–28, 2014 on the islands of Tenerife and La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain. The keynote speaker of Starmus II was Stephen Hawking. The speakers included Nobel Prize winners Robert W. Wilson, John Mather and Sir Harold W. Kroto, the eminent evolutionary theorist and scientist Richard Dawkins, anthropologist Caterina Harvati, Astronomy Magazine's editor David J. Eicher, Apollo astronauts Walt Cunningham and Charlie Duke, legendary soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, and physicist John Ellis. The Sonic Universe concert was led by keyboard player Rick Wakeman (among his many great musical achievements, he was a member of the progressive rock band “Yes”) with a guest appearance by Brian May, and the rock band Nosound performed a special concert at the Starmus Star Party at Teide Observatory. Film director Grigorij Richters introduced the first private screening of his latest film, 51 Degrees North.

The Government of Canary Islands announced that the media impact from the second STARMUS festival has exceeded 170 Million EUR and that it has reached 2.4 billion people worldwide.[16] Nearly 100 reporters from all over the world joined and covered the festival.

The third STARMUS festival took place in 2016 in the Canary Islands, on Tenerife and La Palma from June 27 to July 2. The theme of the third festival was: Beyond The Horizon: A Tribute To Stephen Hawking.

As was the case with the previous two festivals, the third STARMUS festival grew in attendance with over 1200 delegates attending. Presenters included: Stephen Hawking, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Roger Penrose, Brian Cox, Richard Dawkins, Brian Greene, Kip Thorne, Martin Rees, Chris Hadfield, Alexei Leonov, Rusty Schweickart, Jill Tarter and Carolyn Porco. The festival also featured Eleven Nobel Prize laureates: David Gross, Joseph Stiglitz, Adam Riess, Brian Schmidt, Robert Wilson, François Englert, Eric Betzig, Carol Greider, Elizabeth Blackburn, Edvard Moser and May-Britt Moser. In addition to the scientists in attendance the festival also featured a vast array of musical talent including: keynote speaker Brian Eno, Hans Zimmer, Brian May, Sarah Brightman, the Symphonic Orchestra of Tenerife, ANATHEMA, and MC Hawking. Other notable attendees included: David Zambuka, writers Robert J. Sawyer and Anthony McCarten, and visual effects supervisor Paul Franklin.[17]

STARMUS III was also the location of the inaugural awards ceremony for recipients of the Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication. The award recipients (chosen by Stephen Hawking himself) were: Composer Hans Zimmer, physicist Jim Al-Khalili and the science documentary “Particle Fever.”

The festival closed with the remarkable Sonic Universe Concert featuring Sarah Brightman singing with the Symphonic Orchestra of Tenerife as conducted by Hans Zimmer. The concert also featured performances by Chris Hadfield, Rick Wakeman, Brian May, and the band Anathema.


Nominated by Swiss Academy of Sciences, Israelian, Michel Mayor and Nuno Santos were awarded the prestigious 2010 Victor Ambartsumian International Prize for Astrophysics, Physics or Mathematics.[18] In 2014 Garik Israelian has received The Canary Islands Gold Medal awarded by the Government of Canary Islands. This is the highest recognition on the Canary Islands of physical persons or companies for their efforts for the benefit of the Canary Islands society.[19]


  1. ^ a b "John Cowan, Supernova Birth for a Black Hole".
  2. ^ "IAC, Observational Tests of the Processes of Nucleosynthesis in the Universe".
  3. ^ "Brian May, PhD thesis, A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud, Springer, 2007".
  4. ^ "BBC News: Queen Star Hands in Science PhD". 3 August 2007.
  5. ^ "G.Brown et al., A Theory of Gamma Ray Bursts".
  6. ^ "Star "Eats" a planet".
  7. ^ "BBC News, Lithium clue for planet-hunters". 11 November 2009.
  8. ^ "Garik Israelian, TED Profile".
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ @StarmusFestival
  12. ^ "STARMUS Festival".
  13. ^ "Tangerine Dream and Brian May".
  14. ^ "STARMUS: 50 Years of Man in Space". ISBN 978-1627950268.
  15. ^ "Hawking: God particle could destroy the Universe".
  16. ^ "El impacto mediatico del Festival Starmus supera 171 milliones".
  17. ^ Starmus 3 full schedule announced!
  18. ^ "Ambartsumian International Prize".
  19. ^ "La Medalla de Oro de Canarias a Dr.Garik Israelian".

External links[edit]