Who is S. Chandrasekhar? Google honors Nobel-winning astrophysicist

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Google honored Subramanyan Chandrasekhar today with a doodle on its homepage. Chandrasekhar won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983 for his study of stars. He found the Chandrasekhar limit, or a proof that there is an upper limit to the mass of a white dwarf star. President Lyndon B. Johnson and Queen Elizabeth honored him with prestigious medals. He died in 1995. Today would have been his 107th birthday.

Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017, would have been legendary astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar’s 107th birthday.

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To honor one of the most famous scientists of the 20th century and his important work, Google created a doodle for its homepage, showcasing Chandrasekhar’s most notable contributions: The Chandrasekhar limit.

💫 pic.twitter.com/XoXf67HdJY— Google UK (@GoogleUK) October 19, 2017

Here are seven things to know about Chandrasekhar and the Chandrasekhar limit:

He was born in Lahore, Pakistan, which used to be a part of India under British rule.

Chandrasekhar was born on Oct. 19, 1910, to a father who was a government officer in the Indian Audits and a mother who Chandrasekhar described in his Nobel Prize bio as "a woman of high intellectual attainments."

He was the first son and third child born into the family of four boys and six girls.

He earned a scholarship to study in Cambridge, England.

Chandrasekhar was awarded the Government of India scholarship in July 1930 after graduating with honors in physics from the Presidency College in India.

At Trinity College in Cambridge, England, he went on to earn a doctorate in the field and eventually joined the research faculty at the University of Chicago.

He won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983.

Chandrasekhar won the Nobel Prize in Physics with his graduate professor William Ralph Fowler for their monumental discoveries on the evolutionary stages of massive stars that pointed toward the existence of black holes, based on his years studying the radiatian of energy from stars, specifically white dwarf stars.

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He was one of the first scientists to incorporate astronomy and physics in his studies.

He wasn’t the only Nobel Prize-winner in his family.

In fact, according to Brittanica, Chandrasekhar's uncle, Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1930.

What exactly is the Chandrasekhar limit and why is it important?

The Chandrasekhar limit (or Chandra limit) proved that there was an “upper limit” to the mass of a white dwarf star.

That upper limit (or Chandrasekhar limit): 1.4 times the mass of the sun.

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A typical white dwarf is about as massive as the Sun, but only slightly bigger than the Earth, according to NASA.

Additionally, a star with low or medium mass (less than approximately eight times the Sun’s mass) will become a white dwarf.

Essentially, the limit showed that massive stars have a threshold. Once objects reach the Chandra limit, they can no longer resist gravitational force and would begin to fall apart.

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So if a white dwarf has a mass less than the Chandra limit, then it will stay a white dwarf forever.

But if a star exceeds the Chandra limit, it’s destined to explode — often as a supernova or black hole.

"In so doing, the star itself dies but furthers the growth process of the universe—it both generates and distributes the elements on which life depends," PBS reported in 2012.

President Lyndon B. Johnson and Queen Elizabeth both honored him with prestigious medals.

In 1962, the queen awarded him with the Royal Medal of the Royal Society of London.

And Johnson presented him with the National Medal of Science, the New York Times reported.

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Chandrasekhar’s other accolades included the Bruce Medal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Henry Draper Medal of the National Academy of Sciences, the Copley Medal of the Royal Society of London.

He also earned several honorary degrees.

More at NYTimes.com.

He died in 1995.

Chandrasekhar died of a heart attack on Aug. 21, 1995. He was 84 years old and lived in Chicago, Illinois.

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In 1999, in his honor, NASA launched Chandra, an X-ray Observatory designed to detect X-ray emission from exploded stars, galaxies, matter around black holes and other extremely hot regions in the universe.

According to the official website, the observatory is "NASA's flagship mission for X-ray astronomy."

Read more from Chandrasekhar at nobelprize.org.

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