Trio win Nobel Physics Prize for black hole research

Published: 6 October 2020, 4:02 PM

Post Desk : Roger Penrose of Britain, Reinhard Genzel of Germany and Andrea Ghez of the US won the Nobel Physics Prize on
Tuesday for their research into black holes, the Nobel jury said.

The physicists were selected “for their discoveries about one of the most
exotic phenomena in the universe, the black hole,” the Nobel Committee said.

Penrose, 89, was honoured for showing “that the general theory of
relativity leads to the formation of black holes”, while Genzel, 68, and
Ghez, 55, were jointly awarded for discovering “that an invisible and
extremely heavy object governs the orbits of stars at the centre of our
galaxy,” the jury said.

Andrea Ghez is just the fourth woman to receive the physics prize since
1901 when the first Nobel prizes were handed out.

Penrose used mathematical modelling to prove back in 1965 that black holes
can form, becoming an entity from which nothing, not even light, may escape.

Genzel and Ghez have led research since the early 1990s focusing on a
region called Sagittarius A* at the centre of the Milky Way.

Using the world’s largest telescopes, they discovered an extremely heavy,
invisible object — around 4 million times greater than the mass of our Sun –
– that pulls on surrounding stars, giving our galaxy its characteristic
swirl.

– In-person ceremony cancelled –

The trio will share the Nobel prize sum of 10 million Swedish kronor
(about $1.1 million, 950,000 euros), with half going to Penrose and the other
half jointly to Genzel and Ghez.

They would normally receive their prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a
formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896
death of scientist Alfred Nobel who created the prizes in his last will and
testament.

But the in-person ceremony has been cancelled this year due to the
coronavirus pandemic, replaced with a televised ceremony showing the
laureates receiving their awards in their home countries.

Last year the honour went to Canadian-American cosmologist James Peebles
and Swiss astronomers Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz for research that
increased the understanding of our place in the universe.

Peebles won for showing that most of the universe is made up of an
“unknown dark matter and dark energy,” while Mayor and Queloz won for the
first discovery, of an exoplanet outside our solar system.

This year’s Nobels season kicked off Monday when the medicine prize was
awarded to Americans Harvey Alter and Charles Rice together with Briton
Michael Houghton for the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus, paving the way
for a cure.