Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (1910-1995), was an American theoretical astrophysicist and Nobel laureate, who contributed greatly to the current understanding of stellar evolution. He was born in Lahore, India (now Pakistan), and was educated in India and at Trinity College and the University of Cambridge, earning a Ph.D. in 1933. In 1953 he became a U.S. citizen.

Although Chandrasekhar worked on theories of radiative transfer and convective transport of heat in stellar atmospheres, his most important studies concerned the small, dim, hot, dense stars known as white dwarfs (see Star). He determined that a star with a mass more than 1.44 times that of the mass of the Sun cannot directly become a white dwarf, a limit now called the Chandrasekhar limit. He shared the Nobel Prize in physics in 1983 with U.S. physicist William A. Fowler for his work on stars. His books include An Introduction to the Study of Stellar Structure (1939) and Principles of Steller Dynamics (1942). The Chandra X-ray Observatory, a powerful X-ray telescope named after Chandrasekhar, was launched by the United States into Earth’s orbit from a space shuttle in 1999.

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