Science & Technology

Three scientists awarded Nobel Prize for discoveries on black holes

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Copenhagen, Oct 6 (efe-epa).- Three scientists – Briton Roger Penrose, German Reinhard Genzel and American Andrea Ghez – have been awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize for Physics for their work on blackholes, the Swedish academy said Tuesday.

The physicists, whose work has helped us understand more about these massive and mysterious celestial objects – which the Academy called “one of the most exotic objects in the Universe” – will share the prize of 10 million kronor ($1.12 million).

Black holes are areas in space where the force of gravity is so powerful that not even light can escape.

Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, published in 1915, which underpins modern physics by explaining how gravity works, had predicted that these objects existed, but due to the complex mathematics involved, scientists and researchers struggled for decades to prove that these objects were in fact real.

Roger Penrose, a professor at Oxford, who scooped half the prize money, was awarded “for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity”, while Genzel and Ghez, who will split the other half, were awarded for discovering a supermassive blackhole at the center of our galaxy.

At the press conference on Tuesday, member of the Nobel Committee Ulf Danielsson said: “The history of black holes goes way back in time to the end of the 18th Century. Then, through Einstein’s general relativity, we had the tools to describe these objects for real.”

“That’s what Roger Penrose did,” Danielsson said. “He understood the mathematics, he introduced new tools and then could actually prove that this is a process you can naturally expect to happen – that a star collapses and turns into a black hole.”

Danielsson said Penrose had laid “the theoretical foundations to say: these objects exist. You can expect to find them if you go out and look for them”.

Genzel, from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany and the University of California, Berkeley, and Ghez were awarded for providing the most compelling evidence so far of a supermassive black hole, known as Sagittarius A*, at the center of our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

They used massive telescopes, the largest ever built, to look deep into the center of the galaxy, where they found the black hole was pulling down on a cluster of stars in its orbit.

Ghez, of the University of California, Los Angeles, is only the fourth woman ever to win the prize. EFE-EPA


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