Oct 6, 2020 - Science

Nobel Prize in physics goes to Milky Way supermassive black hole researchers

The clouds of the Milky Way. Photo: ESO/S. Brunier
The clouds of the Milky Way. Photo: ESO/S. Brunier

Three scientists are sharing the Nobel Prize in physics this year for their work on the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

Why it matters: The laureates — Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez — have created a more full theoretical and observational view of the inner workings of our galaxy.

Details: Penrose will receive half of the $1.1 million prize for his work that showed black holes are a natural consequence of Einstein's general theory of relativity, according to the Nobel Committee's announcement today.

  • Genzel and Ghez will split the other half of the prize for developing methods to peer through the dust of the Milky Way using powerful telescopes in an attempt to observe the center of our galaxy and understand the supermassive structure that likely lurks within it.
  • "[T]hese exotic objects still pose many questions that beg for answers and motivate future research," David Haviland, chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics, said in a statement.

Between the lines: Some claim the science prizes are out of touch, racist and sexist and have called on the organization to rethink how the prizes are awarded.

  • Ghez is only the fourth woman to win a Nobel Prize in physics.
  • "I hope that I can inspire other young women into the field," Ghez said during a press conference Tuesday.
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