Nobel Prize in Physics for cosmologists Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for their findings on black holes

Nobel Prize in Physics for cosmologists Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for their findings on black holes

Scientist Andrea Ghez becomes the fourth woman to win a Nobel Prize in Physics in its almost 120-year history

Nobel Prize in Physics for cosmologists Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for their findings on black holes

The Nobel Prize in Physics this year has focused on “the darkest secrets” of the Universe, as pointed out by Göran Hansson, secretary general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, before announcing the three winners: cosmologists Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez, awarded for their discoveries about black holes.

Roger Penrose of the University of Oxford will receive half of the award “for discovering that the formation of black holes is a robust prediction of the Theory of General Relativity.” The other half is shared by Reinhard Genzel, from the Max Planck Institute, and Andrea Ghez, from the University of California, “for discovering a supermassive compact object at the center of our galaxy,” the Milky Way. That this object is a black hole is the only explanation that scientists can currently offer.

Andrea Ghez (New York, 1965) thus becomes the fourth woman to win a Nobel Prize in Physics in its almost 120-year history . “I hope I can inspire other women to dedicate themselves to this field. Much remains to be done,” Ghez said during the press conference, held this year with great restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Andrea Ghez and the German Reinhard Genzel (Bad Homburg vor der Höhe, 1952) have led groups of astronomers who since the 90s have been surveying a region located in the heart of our galaxy called Sagittarius A *. This monitoring, carried out with the most powerful telescopes in the world, has allowed them to monitor the stars closest to the center of the Milky Way and develop techniques to be able to see through clouds of interstellar gas and dust, which allowed them to discover evidence of the existence of that supermassive black hole in the center of the galaxy.

How did you feel when you discovered that object in the center of the Milky Way? “A combination of doubt and emotion,” Ghez said. The American scientist has also underlined the importance that, from her point of view, physical research has for humanity: “The part that I am most passionate about in my work now is teaching, because it is very important to convince young people of their ability to questioning things and their ability to think . It is crucial for the world, “he assured.

Theory of General Relativity

As stated in the minutes of the Jury, the British Roger Penrose (Colchester, 1931) demonstrated that the General Theory of Relativity formulated by Albert Einstein leads to the formation of black holes, a conclusion reached by means of ingenious mathematical methods.

Einstein himself did not believe that black holes really existed, those super-heavy monsters that capture everything that enters them and from which nothing can escape, not even light.

But in January 1965, ten years after Einstein's death, Penrose showed that black holes can really form and described them in detail; At their heart, black holes hide a singularity in which all known laws of nature cease. His groundbreaking article is still considered the most important contribution to the Theory of General Relativity since Einstein.

For the third consecutive year, the Nobel Prize in Physics rewards research on the nature of the Universe. In 2019, it was shared by cosmologist James Peebles, for his studies on the galaxy, which have helped to understand the evolution of the cosmos, and astrophysicists Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz, awarded for discovering the first planet outside the Solar System while in 2017 it relapsed in those responsible for the first detection of gravitational waves, Rainer Weiss, Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne.

On Monday, the Nobel Prize in Medicine went to the scientists who discovered the hepatitis C virus, Harvey J. Alter (USA), Michael Houghton (UK) and Charles M. Rice (USA).

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