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British scientist awarded Nobel physics prize for black hole research

Written by on 6 October 2020

A British scientist has been awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in physics.

Sir Roger Penrose, alongside German Reinhard Genzel and American Andrea Ghez, won the prize for discoveries relating to black holes.

One half of the 10 million Swedish kronor prize (GBP866,000) has been given to Sir Roger, and the other half is jointly shared between Professor Genzel and Professor Ghez.

Sir Roger is a professor at Oxford University

The 89-year old Briton, a professor at Oxford University, proved with maths that the formation of black holes was possible, basing his work largely on Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences noted physicist Einstein did not himself believe that black holes really exist.

Prof Genzel, of the Max Planck Institute and University of California, Berkeley, and Prof Ghez, at the University of California, Los Angeles, discovered that an invisible and extremely heavy object governs the orbits of stars at the centre of our galaxy.

Since the late 18th century, scientists have wondered whether any object existed in the universe that would exert a gravitational pull so strong that light may not be able to escape.

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Einstein predicted in 1915, in his general theory of relativity, that space and time would be warped by the force of gravity.

But it was not until 1965 that Prof Penrose proved black holes can really form – describing them in detail and stating that, at their centre, time and space cease to exist.

The Nobel Prize panel said: “His groundbreaking article is still regarded as the most important contribution to the general theory of relativity since Einstein.”

The prestigious award comes with a gold medal and also prize money left by Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel.