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Nobel Prize for black hole Physics

Date: 08 October 2020 Tags: Space

Issue

Sir Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel, and Andrea Ghez were announced as this year's winners for Nobel Prize for Physics.

 

Details

  • Their work over the years, based on independent observations by two different telescopes, has provided compelling evidence of the presence of a supermassive black hole at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy.

  • Ghez and Genzel, whose main work came in the 1990s and early 2000s, have been considered Nobel contenders for many years now.

  • Penrose has many other contributions as well, in mathematics, in physics, in philosophy. Black holes form a very small part of his work.

  • Ghez, who spends a lot of time popularising science and talking about black holes, works at the Keck Observatory on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, and Genzel at the Very Large Telescope facility on Paranal mountain in Chile.

  • They made precise measurements of the orbits of the brightest stars in the area considered the middle of the Milky Way, and their studies showed that the slightly unusual trajectories and the speed of the stars could only be explained by the presence of a very massive but invisible, heavenly body.

  • This is now known to be the Sagittarius A* supermassive black hole, which has a mass four million times that of the Sun and is confined to an area roughly the size of our Solar System.

 

Sagittarius A*

  • Sagittarius A* is one of two black holes whose photographs have been captured by the Event Horizon Telescope project. Black holes do not emit or radiate anything, even light.

  • So, there is no way their image can be captured. But the area just outside its boundary, called the event horizon, which has vast amounts of gas, clouds, and plasma swirling violently, does emit all kinds of radiations, even visible light.

  • Through a network of giant telescopes, scientists have collected radiations from outside the event horizon of the black hole, and recreate an image.

  • The black hole can be “seen” only because it is enclosed within a very bright, orange-red doughnut-shaped ring in the image.

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