The Darkest Secrets of the Universe: 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics

Today, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics 2020 to Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea M. Ghez “for their discoveries about one of the most exotic phenomena in the universe, the black hole.” Roger Penrose receives one half of the Prize “for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity.” The other half was jointly awarded to Reinhard Genzel and Andrea M. Ghez “for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the centre of our galaxy.”

 

Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea M. Ghez, 2020 Nobel Laureates in Physics, Copyright: Nobel Media 2020. Illustration: Niklas Elmehed

From the popular scientific background released by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences:

“Roger Penrose invented ingenious mathematical methods to explore Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. He showed that the theory leads to the formation of black holes, those monsters in time and space that capture everything that enters them. Nothing, not even light, can escape.

Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez each lead a group of astronomers who have focused on a region at the centre of the Milky Way since the early 1990s. With increasing precision, they have mapped the orbits of the brightest stars that are closest to the centre. Both groups found something that is both invisible and heavy, forcing this jumble of stars to swirl around. This invisible mass has about four million solar masses squeezed together in a region no larger than our solar system. What is it that makes the stars at the heart of the Milky Way swing around at such astonishing speeds? According to the current theory of gravity, there is only one candidate – a supermassive black hole.”

Read more about the Nobel Prize in Physics 2020 here.

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