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first image of black hole released by the Event Horizon Telescope (10 April 2019) via Wikimedia Commons / diagram from Penrose’s 1965 paper “Gravitational Collapse and Space-Time Singularities”, Phys. Rev. Lett. 14, 57. / composite: Geraint F. Lewis

Heart of darkness

Black holes and the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics

Black holes are the most mysterious objects in the universe; matter and space folded into an enigmatic knot from which not even light can escape. The 2020 Nobel Prize awarded research into black holes, thinking about the unthinkable, and seeing the unseeable. But just what did these extraordinary scientists do? Tune in as we try to unravel the puzzle.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences this year jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, with one half to Roger Penrose “for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity", and the other half to Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez "for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the centre of our galaxy". 

What makes these discoveries exciting and what do they tell us about life, the universe, everything? Two of our leading physicists, Geraint F. Lewis and Peter Tuthill, help shed some light on the science of black holes.

The speakers

Geraint's research focuses on cosmology, gravitational lensing and galactic cannibalism, all with the goal of unravelling the dark-side of the universe. He has published more than four hundred articles in astrophysics, as well as speaking to varied audiences on cosmology and the nature of the universe. He is co-authored two books: A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos, which examines why the physical properties of the universe appear to be just right for complexity and life and The Cosmic Revolutionary’s Handbook: or how to beat the Big Bang that describes how we know what we know about the universe.

Peter is an expert in astrophysical imaging; studying stars and their immediate environments with unprecedented resolution. After obtaining undergraduate degrees in physics at University of Queensland and the Australian National University, Peter gained a doctorate from Cambridge University. Following a position as a Research Astronomer at the University of California in Berkeley in a research group led by Nobel Laureate, Professor Charles Townes, Peter returned to Australia where he works at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy, serving as director from 2010-2015.

Event image: first image of black hole released by the Event Horizon Telescope (10 April 2019) via Wikimedia Commons / diagram from Penrose’s 1965 paper “Gravitational Collapse and Space-Time Singularities”, Phys. Rev. Lett. 14, 57. / composite: Geraint F. Lewis

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