Trio win Nobel Prize in Physics for black hole research

Trio win Nobel Prize in Physics for black hole research

The Straits Times·2020-10-07 05:00

STOCKHOLM Professor Roger Penrose of Britain, Professor Reinhard Genzel of Germany and Professor Andrea Ghez of the United States have won the Nobel Prize in Physics 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.Prof Penrose, 89, was honoured for showing "that the general theory of relativity leads to the formation of black holes", while Prof Genzel, 68, and Prof 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.Prof Ghez is only the fourth woman to receive the physics prize since 1901, when the first Nobel prizes were handed out.Prof Penrose used mathematical modelling to prove in 1965 that black holes can form and become an entity from which nothing, not even light, may escape.Prof Genzel and Prof 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 four million times greater than the mass of our Sun - that pulls on surrounding stars, giving our galaxy its characteristic swirl.The trio will share the prize sum of 10 million Swedish kronor (S$1.5 million), with half going to Prof Penrose and the other half jointly to Prof Genzel and Prof Ghez.The in-person award ceremony on Dec 10 has been cancelled owing to the coronavirus pandemic and 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.Professor Emeritus Peebles won for showing that most of the universe is made up of an "unknown dark matter and dark energy", while Professor Emeritus Mayor and Professor Queloz won for the first discovery of an exoplanet outside our solar system.This year's Nobel season kicked off on Monday, with the medicine prize going to Americans Harvey Alter and Charles Rice, together with Briton Michael Houghton, for the discovery of the hepatitis C virus that paved the way for a cure.AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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