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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.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Oct 13, 2020 - Science

Watching a star's death by black hole

Scientists have spotted a bright flash of light emitted by a star as it was destroyed by a black hole 215 million light-years away.

Why it matters: Black holes are some of the most extreme and difficult to study objects in the universe, and these types of rare events could help researchers piece together more about their nature.

1 hour ago - World

Putin foe Navalny to be detained for 30 days after returning to Moscow

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Photo: Oleg Nikishin/Epsilon/Getty Images

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has been ordered to remain in pre-trial detention for 30 days, following his arrest upon returning to Russia on Sunday for the first time since a failed assassination attempt last year.

Why it matters: The detention of Navalny, an anti-corruption activist and the most prominent domestic critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has already set off a chorus of condemnations from leaders in Europe and the U.S.

Biden picks Warren allies to lead SEC, CFPB

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has selected FTC commissioner Rohit Chopra to be the next director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Obama-era Wall Street regulator Gary Gensler to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Why it matters: Both picks are progressive allies of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and viewed as likely to take aggressive steps to regulate big business.