Garik Israelian
Born1963 (age 57–58)
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. Founder of Starmus Festival. He 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

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 and researcher in Utrecht (Netherlands), Brussels (Belgium), and Sydney (Australia). Since 1997 he has worked at the Institute of Astrophysics, Canary Islands (IAC), and as a professor at the University of La Laguna, Tenerife.

Israelian has 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.[2] Brian May 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]

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 data collected with the 10m Keck telescope in Hawaii, which provided the first observational evidence that supernova explosions are responsible for the formation of black holes.[5][6] This was cited by Stephen Hawking on his lecture at Starmus II.[7] Also discussed by Nobel Prize physicist Hans Bethe[8] and review by Dennis Sciama (PhD supervisor of Stephen Hawking)[9] and collaborators. In 2001 he proposed the so-called "Lithium-6 test" aiming to check if a star has engulfed a planet or other gaseous or solid matter.[10] An international team of scientists led by Israelian has provided the explanation of anomaly low abundance of lithium in the atmosphere of the Sun, and linked this fact with the presence of planets in the solar system.[11][12]

2001-2003 Israelian gave 30 hours post-graduate course on Radiation Transfer, Stellar Atmospheres and Spectroscopy at the Universities of Tokyo, Japan and Geneva, Switzerland. Visiting professor at Caltech (2000), National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (2003), Observatory of Trieste (Italy) and more. Invited talks at more than 30 international conferences. In 2009 Israelian was invited to speak at TED Global in Oxford.[13] In June 2016, Israelian appeared on Larry King Now with Stephen Hawking to discuss Starmus Festival, artificial intelligence, and cosmology.[14]

The Sounds of Stars

In 2005, Garik Israelian compiled a unique library of acoustic sound waves produced within the bodies of stars. This research project inspired Dr. Israelian to join forces with Dr. Brian May, astrophysicist and legendary guitarist of the band Queen, to create a new festival that would bring the stars together with music, and so Starmus was born. The main concept of the "Starsounds" project was explained in the lecture of Dr. Israelian "Our Acoustic Universe" and published in the book "50 Years of Man in Space" (lectures of Starmus I, edited by Israelian and Brian May, 2014). "Starsounds" have been used by Brian May and Tangerine Dream in their composition "Supernovae". .[15][16][17] In 2016 Garik Israelian made a selection from his library of stellar recordings and turned them over to Brian Eno who arranged them into a new composition. Dr. Israelian invited Paul Franklin and Oliver James of DNEG, the world-leading Oscars winning film visual effects studio, to create images that responded to the mysterious promise of the music. The result is "Starsounds", a hypnotic piece rich with complex harmonies and mesmerizing visuals. "Starsounds" is being made available on the internet for the first time so that everyone can enjoy the work of Dr Israelian, Brian Eno, Paul Franklin, Oliver James and DNEG.[18][19][20]

Starmus Festival

Main article: Starmus Festival

Starmus Festival
Starmus Festival

In 2011, Israelian founded the Starmus Festival. The Starmus International Festival is an international gathering focused on celebrating astronomy, space exploration, music, art, and allied sciences such as biology and chemistry. Since 2010 the advisory board of Starmus included Garik Israelian, Brian May, Stephen Hawking, Alexei Leonov, Peter Gabriel, Richard Dawkins, Jill Tarter, Jack Szostak (Nobel laureate), Harry Kroto (Nobel Laureate), Richard Dawkins, Robert Williams, Tony Fadell, David Eicher and Emmanuelle Charpentier. There were five festivals that featured Apollo astronauts, including Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell. Cosmonauts including Alexei Leonov, Yuri Baturin. Scientists Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, Jill Tarter, Kip Thorne and many others. Musicians Brian May, Steve Vai, Hanz Zimmer, Rick Wakeman among others. The first Starmus Festival, "50 years in space", was a 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.[21]


Nominated by Swiss Academy of Sciences, Israelian, Michel Mayor (Co-laureate of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics) and Nuno Santos were awarded the 2010 Victor Ambartsumian International Prize for Astrophysics, Physics or Mathematics.[22]

In 2014, Israelian received The Canary Islands Gold Medal awarded by the Government of Canary Islands. This is the highest recognition on the Canary Islands awarded to people or companies for efforts that benefit of the Canary Islands society.[23]

On 20 June 2016 the International Astronomical Union and the Minor Planet Center officially renamed asteroid 21057(1991 GJ8) to Garik Israelian in honor of Israelian.[24] The citation was written by astronomer Joel Parker and Queen guitarist Brian May, and presented by them at the Starmus Festival.[25]


  1. ^ "John Cowan, Supernova Birth for a Black Hole".
  2. ^ "Chemical abundances of secondary stars in low mass X-ray binaries". 2006.
  3. ^ May, Brian (5 August 2008). "Brian May, PhD thesis, A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud, Springer, 2007". ISBN 9780387777054.
  4. ^ "BBC News: Queen Star Hands in Science PhD". 3 August 2007.
  5. ^ "".
  6. ^ Cowan, John (1999), "Astronomy: Supernova birth for a black hole", Nature, 401 (6749): 124, Bibcode:1999Natur.401..124C, doi:10.1038/43586, S2CID 4382370
  7. ^ Israelian, Garik; May, Brian (2014). Starmus: 50 Years of Man in Space. Amazon: Starmus. p. 147. ISBN 978-1627950268.
  8. ^ Brown, Gerald Edward; Lee, Chang-Hwan (2003). Formation and Evolution of Black Holes in the Galaxy. ISBN 9789812382504.
  9. ^ Celotti, A.; Miller, J. C.; Sciama, D. W. (1999). "Astrophysical evidence for the existence of black holes". Classical and Quantum Gravity. 16 (12A): A3. arXiv:astro-ph/9912186. Bibcode:1999CQGra..16A...3C. doi:10.1088/0264-9381/16/12A/301. S2CID 17677758.
  10. ^ "Star eats planet". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  11. ^ Israelian, G.; Mena, E. D.; Santos, N. C.; Sousa, S. G.; Mayor, M.; Udry, S.; Cerdeña, C. D.; Rebolo, R.; Randich, S. (2009). "Enhanced lithium depletion in Sun-like stars with orbiting planets". Nature. 462 (7270): 189–91. arXiv:0911.4198. doi:10.1038/nature08483. PMID 19907489. S2CID 388656.
  12. ^ "60-Year-Old Solar Mystery Finally Explained". 2009.
  13. ^ "Garik Israelian, TED Profile".
  14. ^ Larry King Now: A conversation with Stephen Hawking.
  15. ^ "Starmus: Sonic Universe".
  16. ^ "Tangerine Dream & Brian May: Starmus – Sonic Universe".
  17. ^ "Tangerine Dream And Brian May – Starmus - Sonic Universe".
  18. ^ "VIDEO: Brian Eno and Starmus Create 'Starsounds' Featuring the Music of the Stars".
  21. ^ "Starmus Festival".
  22. ^ "Ambartsumian International Prize". Archived from the original on 2018-03-22. Retrieved 2010-10-24.
  23. ^ "La Medalla de Oro de Canarias a Dr.Garik Israelian".
  24. ^
  25. ^ @StarmusFestival