Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar was an Indian-American astrophysicist whose research revolutionized the field of astronomy. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983 “for his theoretical studies of the physical processes of importance to the structure and evolution of the stars.” This article takes a look at the life of Chandrasekhar and the discoveries he made in the field of astrophysics – particularly concerning stellar evolution, black holes, and his Nobel-winning discoveries regarding the physics of the stars.

Early Life of Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar 

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar was born in October 1910, in Lahore, India (now known as Pakistan). He had a love for mathematics from an early age, and was tutored by his elder brother. Chandrasekhar was accepted into Presidency College in Madras, India in 1927, and he matriculated with an exceptional performance in mathematics, surpassing the national entrance examination.

Chandrasekhar attended Cambridge University in England in 1930, where he worked on his doctoral thesis on stellar structure and the effects of gravity. He completed the thesis in 1933, but his advisor, the Nobel physicist Arthur Eddington refused to submit the paper for publication, claiming that it contradicted the prevailing knowledge of the field.

Contributions in Astrophysics

Chandrasekhar applied his mathematical knowledge to the study of astrophysics, revolutionizing the field of astronomy. He made a number of critically important contributions to stellar astrophysics, particularly concerning the physics of the stars and their homology (the study of similarities between different groups of stars).

Stellar Evolution

Through his studies of stellar evolution, Chandrasekhar proposed the theory of stellar mass collapse, which states the means by which a star’s density and temperature become greatly increased when it reaches the end of its lifespan. This paved the way for the formulation of the “Chandrasekhar Limit,” which states that stars more massive than 1.4 solar masses cannot support themselves against their own gravitational force, leading to their eventual collapse into a white dwarf, a neutron star, or a black hole.

Chandrasekhar also proposed the “Evolutionary Will Equation” which states that the stars’ energy produced through the fusion of elements within its core is balanced by the energy produced by the star’s gravity. This equation is still used today by astronomers to study stellar evolution.

Black Hole Theory

 In 1939, Chandrasekhar published his landmark paper on the mass-energy relation for black holes. This paper set forth the scientific basis for the theory of black holes, and was the first to accurately calculate their mass-energy relation. This theory was later verified by Stephen Hawking and is considered a major breakthrough in the field of astrophysics.

Chandrasekhar employed the same equation to propose the black hole’s maximum entropy and temperature, which is known as the “Chandrasekhar Limit” and it is still used in modern astrophysics to calculate the maximum entropy of a star.

Nobel Prize 

In recognition of his many contributions to the fields of astrophysics, astronomy and mathematics, Chandrasekhar was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983. In his award speech, the Nobel committee noted that Chandrasekhar had helped to revolutionize modern astrophysics and astronomy through his groundbreaking work on stellar evolution and black hole theory.

Legacy of Chandrasekhar 

Chandrasekhar’s death in 1995 at the age of 84 marked the end of an extended career of scientific creativity and insight. He received a Nobel Prize, a host of honorary doctorates, and numerous awards, including the Bruce Medal from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship from the American Astronomical Society,and the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.

While his death was a great loss for the scientific community, Chandrasekhar’s legacy lives on and is still recognized throughout the world. His contributions, research and discoveries in astrophysics helped to shape our understanding of the universe and its evolution, as well as producing a lasting impact in the fields of mathematics and science.

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar was an extraordinary astrophysicist who revolutionized the scientific field of astronomy. Through the use of mathematics, Chandrasekhar was able to make groundbreaking discoveries in stellar evolution, the physics of the stars, and the theory of black holes. His research and discoveries have shaped the field of astrophysics, and his legacy lives on to this day.