Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez have bagged the 2020 Nobel Prize for Physics for their work on black hole formation and the discovery of a Supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy.
The Nobel Prize in Physics 2020 was divided, one half awarded to Roger Penrose “for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity”, the other half jointly to Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez “for the discovery of a supermassive compact object of the centre of the galaxy.”
During the announcement, chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics David Haviland said that the discoveries of this year’s Laureates have broken new ground in the study of compact and supermassive objects. However, these exotic objects still pose many questions that beg for answers and motivate future research, Haviland said,
Roger Penrose used ingenious mathematical methods to prove that black holes are a direct consequence of Albert Einstein general theory of relativity. Einstein did not himself believe that black holes really exist. Ten years after Einstein’s death, Penrose in 1965 proved that black holes really can form. He proved that black holes hide a singularity in which all the known laws of nature cease. His groundbreaking article is still regarded as the most important contribution to the general theory of relativity since Einstein.
Penrose was born on August 8, 1931. He is Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, an emeritus fellow of Wadham College, Oxford and an honorary Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge. He has won several prizes and awards, including the 1988 Wolf Prize for physics, which he shared with Stephen Hawking for the Penrose-Hawking singularity theorems. He invented the twistor theory in 1967 which maps geometric objects in Minkowski space into the 4-dimensional complex space with the metric signature. In 1974, he discovered Penrose filings, which are formed from two tiles that can only tile the plane nonperiodically, and are the first tilings to exhibit fivefold rotational symmetry.
Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez each led a group of astronomers since early 1990s focussing on a region called Sagittarius A at the centre of the galaxy. Using the world’s largest telescopes, both of them developed methods to see through the huge clouds of interstellar gas and dust to the centre of the Milky Way. Their pioneering work has given the most convincing evidence of a supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way.
Genzel was born on March 24, 1952 in Germany. He studied at the University of Freiburg and the University of Bonn where he did his PhD 1978. He worked at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge. He was also a Miller Fellow from 1980 until 1982, and also associate and full Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley from 1981. He became Scientific Member of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft in 1986, and director at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching and an honorary professor at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München since 1988. He is a Full Professor at the University of California, Berkeley since 1999. He also sits on the selection committee for the Shaw Prize in astronomy
Andrea Ghez was born on June 16, 1965. She is an American astronomer and professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UCLA. She received a BS in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1987 and her Ph.D. under the direction of Gerry Neugebauer at the California Institute of Technology in 1992.