Three Scientists Receive Nobel Prize in Physics for Pioneering Black Hole Research

The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Roger Penrose “for the discovery that black hole formation is a reliable prediction of general relativity.” He shared it with Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for the discovery of a supermassive compact object in the center of our galaxy.

Penrose, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, will receive half of the prize money of SEK 10 million (over US $ 1.1 million). He helped solidify the theoretical underpinnings of black hole physics in the 1960s by providing the foundational mathematical proof that black holes are a direct consequence of general relativity.

Hansel is Acting Director of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany and a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, and Guez is a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. Each of them will receive a quarter of the prize money. Hansel and Guez lead teams of astronomers who have mapped the orbits of the stars closest to the center of our Milky Way – an area known as Alpha Sagittarius. This gives us the best evidence to date that there is a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. This work has been aided immeasurably by the development of advanced adaptive optics tools to counter the distorting effects of the Earth’s atmosphere.