Black Holes and the Milky Way: Nobel Prize for Physics 2020 Awarded to Three Scientists

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This year’s Nobel Prize for Physics has been awarded to three physicists for their discoveries in the field of black holes. A half of the prize announced by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences was received by a British mathematical physicist Roger Penrose for proving that the formation of black holes is a prediction of the General Theory of Relativity, the second half of the prize was received jointly by a German researcher Reinhard Genzel and an American researcher Andrea Ghez for their discovery of supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy.

It was the second consecutive year that the top science award recognized the merit of researchers in the exploration of the universe. Last year’s Nobel Prize for physics went to a Canadian-American physicist and theoretical cosmologist James Peebles, and Swiss astrophysicists Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz for the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star.

“Gravitational physics is a perspective discipline that has evolved rapidly in the last few decades. The progress in technology has enabled an unparalleled verification of the mathematical consequences of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity,” says Martin Schnabl from the Institute of Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

Roger Penrose developed powerful mathematical methods he employed to show that under specific conditions the mass enters an irreversible gravitational collapse, producing singularity in the space-time of the so-called black holes. Within the General Theory of Relativity formulated by Albert Einstein, who himself did not believe in the existence of such objects, these results are of utmost significance.

Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez have each led a group of astronomers for over 30 years focusing on the exploration of a strongly radiating and compact source of radiation located at the centre of the Milky Way. Although independent, the two groups of astronomers perfectly confirmed each other’s results, and using the biggest available telescopes, they both managed to penetrate into the centre of the Milky Way and prove the existence of black holes at the centre of the galaxy.