The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded three astrophysicists Tuesday for work that was literally out of the world, and indeed the universe. They are Roger Penrose, an Englishman, Reinhard Genzel, a German, and Andrea Ghez, an American. They were recognized for their work on the gateways to eternity known as black holes, massive objects that swallow light and everything else forever that falls in their unsparing maws.
Dr. Penrose, a mathematician at Oxford University, was awarded half of the approximately $1.1 million prize for proving that black holes must exist if Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity, known as general relativity, is right.
The second half was split between Dr. Genzel and Dr. Ghez for their relentless and decades long investigation of the dark monster here in the center of out own galaxy, gathering evidence to convict it of be a supermassive black hole.
Dr. Ghez is only the fourth woman to win the Nobel prize in physics, following Marie Curie in 1903, Maria Goeppert Mayer in 1963 and Donna Strickland in 2018.
“I’m so thrilled” she said in an email.
The Nobel Assembly announced the prize at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm.
Who are the winners?
Dr. Penrose, a Briton who is a professor at the University of Oxford, England, used “ingenious mathematical methods,” the academy said, to prove that black holes were a direct consequence of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, even though Einstein himself did not believe that they existed.
Dr. Genzel, who was born in Germany, and Dr. Ghez, who was born in New York, lead a group of astronomers that focused on a region called Sagittarius A* at the center of our galaxy. By using the world’s largest telescopes, the academy said, the scientists had developed methods to see through the huge clouds of interstellar gas and dust to the center of the Milky Way.
Dr. Genzel works at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany, and at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Ghez is a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Who else won a Nobel Prize this year?
Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice on Monday received the prize for their discovery of the hepatitis C virus. The Nobel committee said the three scientists had “made possible blood tests and new medicines that have saved millions of lives.”