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Caltech Alumna Wins Nobel Prize in Physics for Galactic Discovery

Published on Tuesday, October 6, 2020 | 8:52 am
Caltech alumna and UCLA Astrophysics Professor Andrea Ghez won the 2020 Novel Prize in Physics, along with two other scientists, for her discovery of a compact, ultra-dense object at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, which is believed to be a supermassive black hole. She’s pictured in an undated photo provided by UCLA.

A Caltech alumna and UCLA astrophysics professor has been awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics, along with two other scientists, for her work to reshape our understanding of the structure of the Milky Way Galaxy, the Nobel Foundation announced Tuesday.

Andrea Ghez and research partner Reinhard Genzel of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany and UC Berkeley shared half of the 2020 prize for their discovery of a supermassive, highly compact object at the center of our home galaxy, the Nobel Foundation said in a written statement.

“Their pioneering work has given us the most convincing evidence yet of a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way,” the statement said.

The other half of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics went to Roger Penrose of the University of Oxford “for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity,” according to the Nobel Foundation.

The scientists have made significant progress in expanding understanding of some of the universe’s most mysterious objects, according to Nobel Prize Committee for Physics Chair David Haviland.

“The discoveries of this year’s Laureates have broken new ground in the study of compact and supermassive objects,” he said. “But these exotic objects still pose many questions that beg for answers and motivate future research. Not only questions about their inner structure, but also questions about how to test our theory of gravity under the extreme conditions in the immediate vicinity of a black hole.”

Ghez earned her Ph.D. from Caltech in 1992, according to a statement from UCLA.

“I’m thrilled and incredibly honored to receive a Nobel Prize in physics,” she said. “The research the Nobel committee is honoring today is the product of a wonderful collaboration among the scientists in the UCLA Galactic Center Orbits Initiative and the University of California’s wise investment in the W.M. Keck Observatory.”

“We have cutting-edge tools and a world-class research team, and that combination makes discovery tremendous fun,” according to Ghez. “Our understanding of how the universe works is still so incomplete. The Nobel Prize is fabulous, but we still have a lot to learn.”

With Tuesday’s announcement, Ghez became the fourth woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Physics, following Marie Curie in 1903, Maria Goeppert Mayer in 1963 and Donna Strickland in 2018, UCLA officials said.

The award represents the 41st Nobel Prize won by Caltech alumni, according to the institution.

Caltech alumnus and Professor of Virology at Rockefeller University Charles M. Rice was awarded a share of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on Monday for his discovery of the Hepatitis C virus.

See also:

Caltech Alumnus Wins Nobel Prize in Medicine for Discovery of Hepatitis C Virus

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