Roger Penrose won one half of the prize while the second half was won by Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for advancing our understanding of black holes.

A drawing of Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez who are the winners of the 2020 Nobel Prize for Physics Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez
news Nobel Prize Tuesday, October 06, 2020 - 16:35

Three scientists have won the Nobel Prize in physics for 2020, the institution announced on Tuesday, for advancing the world’s understanding of black holes, one of the most exotic phenomena in the universe. Roger Penrose from University of Oxford, UK, won one half of the prize while the second half was won by Reinhard Genzel, from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Germany and University of California, Berkeley, USA, and Andrea Ghez from the University of California, Los Angeles, USA.

Roger 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. A supermassive black hole is the only currently known explanation.

The prizes celebrate one of the most exotic objects in the universe, black holes, which have become a staple of science fiction and science fact and where time even seems to stand still, Nobel committee scientists said.

Penrose proved with mathematics that the formation of black holes was possible, based heavily on Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity. Genzel and Ghez looked at the dust-covered centre of our Milky Way galaxy where something strange was going on, several stars moving around something they couldn't see.

It was a black hole. Not just an ordinary black hole, but a supermassive black hole, 4 million times the mass of our sun. Now scientists know that all galaxies have supermassive black holes.

It is common for several scientists who worked in related fields to share the prize. Last year's prize went to Canadian-born cosmologist James Peebles for theoretical work about the early moments after the Big Bang, and Swiss astronomers Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz for discovering a planet outside our solar system.

The prestigious award comes with a gold medal and prize money of 10 million Swedish kronor (more than USD 1.1 million), courtesy of a bequest left 124 years ago by the prize's creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel. The amount was increased recently to adjust for inflation.

On Monday, the Nobel Committee awarded the prize for physiology and medicine to Americans Harvey J Alter and Charles M Rice and British-born scientist Michael Houghton for discovering the liver-ravaging hepatitis C virus.

The other prizes, to be announced in the coming days, are for outstanding work in the fields of chemistry, literature, peace and economics.

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