The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to astronomers Andrea Ghez, Reinhard Genzel, and mathematical physicist Roger Penrose. The two astronomers have been awarded for their discovery of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. Penrose received half of the prize for demonstrating how Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity resulted in black holes where a gravitational force is so powerful that even light cannot escape it.
Their research began nearly 30 years ago when Genzel and Ghez worked on mapping the orbits of stars near the Galactic Center. They concluded that a massive and invisible object affected the movement of the stars. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, who gave the award, shared that research on Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*)is the most compelling evidence that a supermassive black hole lies at the center of the Milky Way.
Discovering Supermassive Blackholes
Astrophysicist Monica Colpi shared that the team's research included monitory star motions around Sgr A* which they also proved to have the density of a supermassive black hole. Heino Falcke, an astrophysicist from Radboud University, the Netherlands, said that the awardees' research was also the foundation that all galaxies had "dark hearts" or supermassive blackholes dictating the motion of all cosmic bodies.
Recently, a study of the Very Large Telescope's observation revealed that it detected a cluster of galaxies surrounding a supermassive black hole. The cosmic web appeared to be continuously growing and provided more clues supporting the theory that all galaxies have a supermassive black hole as its center.
Ghez was also the fourth woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics, an association she takes very seriously. She hopes to "inspire other young women into the field. It's a field that has so many pleasures."
Penrose's Theoretical Work
Meanwhile, Penrose's theoretical work was first presented in a 1965 paper where he stated that with the right conditions, black holes would form and even trap light. According to Einstein's general relativity, mass enters the black hole and cannot escape it due to the strong gravitational pull. The dense energy is called the singularity.
He also has numerous contributions to both fields of physics and mathematics. For example, he developed a geometrical theory which became the Penrose tiling or aperiodic, two-dimensional geometric patterns.
Penrose is also known for the theory of twistor spaces, altering the relationship between space and time as understood by previous researchers. He had also worked alongside Stephen Hawking on singularities. In a way, said astrophysicist Andreas Eckhard, the Nobel prize is indirectly awarded Hawking as well since the pair led teams who worked on the "theoretical physical interpretation of the black hole phenomenon."
For decades, while researchers have determined how black holes formed and developed telescopes to detect the invisible objects, the origins of supermassive black holes have remained unknown. NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory's images have also contributed to revealing images of the Milky Way's center and Sgr A*.
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