IMAGE CREDITS: NASA
On October 5th, the winners of the Nobel Prize were announced and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences decided to award 3 physicists for their research on black holes, one of the most unknown objects in the cosmos.
The winners of the 2020 Nobel Prize in physics include Roger Penrose from England, Reinhard Genzel from Germany, and Andrea Ghez from the United States. The Nobel Prize has been awarded to Penrose “for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity” and to Ghez and Genzel “for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the center of our galaxy”. That is, Penrose mathematically proved that “the general theory of relativity leads to the formation of black holes” and the other two “discovered that an invisible and extremely heavy object governs the orbits of stars at the center of our galaxy” (Science Daily).
Roger Penrose, the oldest of the three at the age of 89, is one of the fathers of modern cosmology and wrote many important scientific articles, including some about the formation of black holes and the Big Bang in collaboration with the most known modern physicist Stephen Hawking. Penrose published in 1965, ten years after Einstein’s death, one of the most important contributions to general relativity, where he proved, using Einstein’s theory, that black holes can form naturally. Penrose described the black holes in detail, explaining its singularity (a region of spacetime where the known laws of physics break down) and other important and mysterious properties (Britannica).
Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez led a group of astronomers that studied, since the 1990s, the center of our galaxy and its dynamics. Surprisingly, they found that a giant massive object was lying at the center of our own galaxy. This object, which has a mass of 4 million solar masses, makes the space surrounding it revolve incredibly fast, causing the rest of the galaxy to orbit it (Nobel Prize).
Black holes were first postulated in the 18th century by Pierre-Simon Laplace, who thought about an object whose gravity is strong enough to attract light. Almost a hundred years later, in 1915, the theory of general relativity was published by Albert Einstein and, just one year following this theory, Karl Schwarzschild found a solution which involved Laplace’s idea. However, that particular solution was only considered a mere mathematical curiosity and it wasn’t until the 1960s when the idea was considered as a true possibility when Penrose began to work with the theory (Phys.org).
Although these discoveries were revolutionary, a member of the Nobel committee David Haviland claims, “these exotic objects [black holes] still pose many questions that beg for answers and motivate future research.”
ARTICLE: SAMI CALVO
EDITOR: KYLE SMITH, SCIENCE EDITOR
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