The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences today announced the winners of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics, recognising seminal discoveries about the creation and location of black holes.
The other half is awarded to astronomers Professor Reinhard Genzel, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Germany and Professor at University of California, Berkeley, USA, and Professor Andrea Ghez of the University of California, Los Angeles, USA. They receive the prize for mapping stars at the centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way, and demonstrating that their movements can only be explained by a supermassive black hole.
Professor Penrose received the RAS Eddington Medal in 1975, jointly with Professor Stephen Hawking. Professor Genzel became an honorary Fellow of the Society in 1994. In 2004 he gave the George Darwin Lecture, and in 2014 the RAS awarded him its Herschel Medal.
Philip Diamond, Executive Director of the Royal Astronomical Society, said:
“Half a century ago even the very existence of black holes was still controversial. Through the pioneering work of Penrose, Genzel and Ghez, we not only have a vastly better understanding of how they are formed, but are able to say convincingly that giant black holes are found at the centre of every galaxy, including our own. My congratulations to all three winners!”
Animation of the movement of the star S2 around the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, based on observations made with the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory in Chile. Credit: ESO / L. Calçada
Dr Robert Massey
Royal Astronomical Society
Mob: +44 (0)7802 877699
Dr Morgan Hollis
Royal Astronomical Society
Mob: +44 (0)7802 877700
Notes for editors
The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The RAS organises scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognises outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and internationally. Its more than 4,400 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.
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In 2020 the RAS is 200 years old. The Society is celebrating its bicentennial anniversary with a series of events around the UK, including public lectures, exhibitions, an organ recital, a pop-up planetarium, and the culmination of the RAS 200: Sky & Earth project.
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