3 scientists win Nobel Prize in physics for research on black holes

by Laura Mize · Oct 6th, 2020 2:11 pm
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Last Updated Oct 6th, 2020 at 7:32 pm

Three scientists, including an American woman, share this year's Nobel Prize in physics for their work on the topic of black holes.

Andrea Ghez, 55, shares half of the prize with Reinhard Genzel, 68, "for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the center of our galaxy," the Nobel Committee said. Ghez works at University of California Los Angeles. Genzel works at the University of California at Berkeley and at Max Planck Institute in Germany.

Ghez joins three other women who have ever received the lauded prize in physics.

British scientist Roger Penrose, 89, received half of the prize "for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction" of the general theory of relativity espoused by Albert Einstein, the committee said.

In announcing the award, the committee called a black hole "one of the most exotic objects in the universe" and noted the monstrous holes "still pose many questions that beg for answers and motivate future research."

Ghez noted that a black hole's "mixing of space and time" is what makes these objects so mysterious and difficult to study. Black holes are said to bring time to a halt, as a person watching a black hole will not see events unfolding at the point called the "event horizon," since the black hole sucks light into itself.

Starting in the 1990s, she and Genzel both lead teams of scientists to study Sagitarrius A*, a region at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy and found what the committee describes as "an extremely heavy, invisible object that pulls on the jumble of stars, causing them to rush around at dizzying speeds."

The scientists captured images of the region and learned it is an enormous black hole that is four million times larger than Earth's sun. Scientists have since learned that all galaxies center around black holes.


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