This year’s recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics – Roger Penrose, Reinhard Gezel and Andrea Ghez – were awarded the prize for their significant contributions to understanding one of the most stunning phenomena in the universe – black holes. The Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded since 1901, and Dr. Ghez is the fifth woman in history to receive this award, following UW professor Donna Strickland in 2018.
Penrose, born in 1931, is a professor at the University of Oxford. His mathematical ingenuity allowed him to identify and describe the formation of black holes, a physical phenomenon that not even Albert Einstein believed existed. Penrose’s mathematical proof of black holes ,being a direct consequence of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, was sufficiently robust to be recognized with this award.
Gezel and Ghez, both professors at the University of California, have been working along with their respective teams of astronomers since the early 1990s. Their research is based on measurements and precise mapping of the brightest stars orbiting the centre of our galaxy, specifically a region called Sagittarius A*. As a result of the agreement between their measurements, both teams concluded that a supermassive object, consisting of approximately four million solar masses, is packed together in a solar system-like region, causing a speed increase on nearby stars as they are pulled into the region. Using the world’s largest telescope, they applied an innovative method to decrease the distortion caused by the Earth’s atmosphere in order to see through large clouds of stellar gas and dust. Their work was crucial in confirming that there is a black hole at the centre of the Milky Way.
The three laureates’ contribution to physics is fundamental to understanding more about the universe. Their research also invites questions about the internal structure of these supermassive objects, commented the chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics, David Haviland. Certainly, contributions from the newest laureates and the scientific community behind this research is essential to understand new features of our universe and awakens the curiosity of future generations in research.
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