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2020 Nobel Prize in physics

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2020 Nobel Prize in physics:


2020 Nobel Prize in physics has been awarded to Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for furthering the understanding of black holes.


What are black holes?

A black hole is formed when stars collapse and can be defined as a space in the universe with an escape velocity so strong that even light cannot escape it.

  • Escape velocity is the speed at which an object must travel to override a planet or an object’s gravitational force.

Main features of blackholes:

  • Since light cannot get out, black holes are invisible and can only be tracked with the help of a space telescope or other special tools.
  • Light cannot escape from blackholes because the gravity inside a black hole is very strong as a result of a lot of matter being squeezed into a small space.

What do the award winners’ work tell us about black holes?

  • Penrose: Discovered “that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity.”
  • Genzel and Ghez: Discovered a “supermassive compact object at the centre of our galaxy.” 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.

Key points for Prelims:

  • 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.

About Nobel Prize in Physics:

Awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895 and awarded since 1901.

  • The first Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to physicist Wilhelm Röntgen in recognition of the extraordinary services he rendered by the discovery of X-rays.



Topics Covered:

  1. What are black holes?
  2. What is Sagittarius A* that is often seen in news?
  3. What is escape velocity?
  4. What is event horizon?
  5. Who awards Nobel Prize in Physics?

Sources: the Hindu.