Pope Francis taps 2020 physics Nobel laureate for academy

Reinhard Genzel helped find supermassive object at galaxy centre

(ANSA) - VATICAN CITY, OCT 15 - Pope Francis on Thursday named 2020 Nobel physics laureate Reinhard Genzel to be an honorary member of the Pontifical Academy of Science.
    Professor Genzel is director of the Max Plank Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics at Garching in Germany.
    He received his year's Nobel prize for physics along with Briton Roger Penrose and American Andrea Ghez.
    The award was divided, with one half being awarded to Penrose "for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity", and the other half jointly to Genzel and Ghez "for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the centre of our galaxy." Genzel and Ghez each lead a group of astronomers that, since the early 1990s, has focused on a region called Sagittarius A* at the centre of our galaxy, according to the Nobel website. The orbits of the brightest stars closest to the middle of the Milky Way have been mapped with increasing precision. The measurements of these two groups agree, with both finding an extremely heavy, invisible object that pulls on the jumble of stars, causing them to rush around at dizzying speeds. Around four million solar masses are packed together in a region no larger than our solar system.
    Using the world's largest telescopes, Genzel and Ghez developed methods to see through the huge clouds of interstellar gas and dust to the centre of the Milky Way. Stretching the limits of technology, they refined new techniques to compensate for distortions caused by the Earth's atmosphere, building unique instruments and committing themselves to long-term research.
    Their pioneering work has given us the most convincing evidence yet of a supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way.
    "The discoveries of this year's Laureates have broken new ground in the study of compact and supermassive objects. 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", says David Haviland, chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics. (ANSA).
   

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