Trio of scientists win Nobel Prize in Physics for black hole research

Roger Penrose (L), Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez were awarded the prize on Tuesday. Illustration by Niklas Elmehed/Nobel Media
Roger Penrose (L), Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez were awarded the prize on Tuesday. Illustration by Niklas Elmehed/Nobel Media

Oct. 6 (UPI) -- A trio of scientists from the United States, Britain and Germany jointly won the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday for discoveries about black holes, the Norwegian Nobel Institute announced.

British mathematician and physicist Roger Penrose won half of the prize and the other half was shared by German astrophysicist Reinhard Genzel and American astronomer Andrea Ghez.


The prize was announced during a ceremony at the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, which awards the honor each year.

Penrose was recognized for his work at Birkbeck College in London during the 1960s, during which he used revolutionary mathematical equations to prove the existence of black holes and to determine they were a direct consequence of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity.

Black holes, he showed, are super-heavy masses capturing everything that enters them, even light, hiding singularities in which all the known laws of nature cease. His 1965 paper, "Gravitational collapse and space-time singularities," not only explained black holes but also set the stage for discoveries about the cosmological "Big Bang."

Genzel and Ghez have each focused their work on a region at the center of the Milky Way galaxy called Sagittarius A, where an extremely heavy, invisible object is thought to be pulling million of stars together into a small area at extremely high speeds.


Genzel, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and Ghez, who teaches at the University of California, Los Angeles, each were honored for developing new techniques in which powerful telescopes can be used to observe Sagittarius A and uncover new information about a powerful black hole at the center of the galaxy.

"The discoveries of this year's Laureates have broken new ground in the study of compact and supermassive objects," said David Haviland, chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics.

"But these exotic objects still pose many questions that beg for answers and motivate future research. Not only questions about their inner structure, but also questions about how to test our theory of gravity under the extreme conditions in the immediate vicinity of a black hole."

The Nobel Institute's prize for medicine was awarded Monday to Americans Harvey J. Alter, Charles M. Rice and Briton Michael Houghton for their work on curing Hepatitis C.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry will be announced Wednesday, to be followed by the literature prize on Thursday, the peace prize on Friday and the prize for economic sciences on Oct. 12.

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