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German, British and American scientists win Nobel physics prize for black hole discoveries

Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez were awarded this year's Physics Nobel Prize.
Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez were awarded this year's Physics Nobel Prize. Nobel Prize
3 min

The 2020 Nobel Prize in physics has been awarded to Roger Penrose, Reinhard Gezel and Andrea Ghez for their discoveries about black holes.

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“While Penrose showed that the general theory of relativity leads to the formation of black holes. Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez discovered that an invisible and extremely heavy object governs the orbits of stars at the centre of our galaxy.

Supermassive black hole

A supermassive black hole is the only currently known explanation,” the Nobel committee said in a statement.

According to the statement, Penrose used ingenious mathematical methods in his proof that black holes are a direct consequence of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

Einstein did not himself believe that black holes really exist, these super-heavyweight monsters that capture everything that enters them. Nothing can escape, not even light.

Penrose proved the existence of black holes in 1965. “His groundbreaking article is still regarded as the most important contribution to the general theory of relativity since Einstein.”

While Penrose contributed theoretically to predicting the existence of black homes, Genzel and Ghez each led a group of astronomers to detect the presence of a supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy through precise observations. 

“The measurements of these two groups agree, with both finding an extremely heavy, invisible object that pulls on the jumble of stars, causing them to rush around at dizzying speeds. Around four million solar masses are packed together in a region no larger than our solar system," the committee added in a statement.

“Using the world’s largest telescopes, Genzel and Ghez developed methods to see through the huge clouds of interstellar gas and dust to the centre of the Milky Way.

"Stretching the limits of technology, they refined new techniques to compensate for distortions caused by the Earth’s atmosphere, building unique instruments and committing themselves to long-term research. Their pioneering work has given us the most convincing evidence yet of a supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way."

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