Garik Israelian's stargazing on the Canary Islands has led to high-profile discoveries about space's big disasters -- including the first evidence that supernova explosions make black holes.
Garik Israelian studies the spectral signatures of stars and other bodies as an astrophysicist at the Gran Telescopio Canarias, home of the world's largest optical-infrared telescope mirror, part of the Institute of Astrophysics on the Canary Islands. He has published more than 150 articles on topics such as extra-solar planets and black hole binary systems, and his observational work -- poring over the spectral data that points to the composition of distant stars -- has led to the discovery of a lithium signature that suggests Sun-sized stars gobble up their planets.
In 1999, Israelian led a collaboration that found the first observational evidence that supernova explosions are responsible for the formation of black holes. He's on the verge of announcing more big news. (And he is one of the astronomers whom Brian May, the guitarist of Queen, credits with persuading him to finish his PhD after 30 years as a rock star.)