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UCLA astronomer Andrea Ghez has become the fourth woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics 2020, in the history of the Nobel Prize. Image credit: Daily Bruin

Congratulations to Professor Andrea Ghez and the Astronomy Community!

Many Congratulations to Andrea Ghez on the award of the Physics 2020 Nobel Prize for her work on the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way.

 

Andrea Ghez, professor of Astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and director of the UCLA Galactic Center Group, shares the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics with two other researchers, Reinhard Genzel Director of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany, and Roger Penrose, professor at the University of Oxford in the UK. All three distinguished researchers are seeing their lifetime work on the study of black holes rewarded by the most prestigious prize in the area of physics.

 

The W.M. Keck telescopes located on Maunakea, Hawaii, played a key-role in Ghez’s research to study the motion of thousands of stars around Sagittarius A, a bright radio-source located at the center of our galaxy, 26,000 light-years away from Earth. Her research team unambiguously demonstrated that the stars at the center of the Milky Way are orbiting a massive object, yet one that is not seen in visible-light emission, providing evidence for the existence of a super-massive black hole (4 million time the mass of our Sun) at the center of our own galaxy. Super-massive black holes have been proposed for decades to be the energy source of Active Galactic Nuclei and quasars. Dr. Ghez’s work, over the past two decades, confirmed the existence of these mysterious objects, which were first predicted by Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

 

TMT feels honored and privileged to have another Nobel Prize in its close circle. Andrea has been involved with TMT science since the beginning of the Project, representing UC on the TMT Science Advisory Committee and as a member of the Infrared Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) Science Team. She participated in the early discussions and development of many aspects of TMT, in particular with the design and science requirements for the advanced Adaptive Optics system (NFIRAOS).

 

TMT’s cutting-edge technology will allow astronomers, including Nobel Prize winning Andrea Ghez, to study the relativistic physics of supermassive black-holes with an unprecedented resolution and sensitivity. Using our own Galactic Center as a research laboratory, astronomers will be able to extend these types of observations to beyond the Milky Way in nearby and distant galaxies. Such work will immensely advance our understanding of black holes, when they first formed, how the galactic environment impacts their formation and growth, and how they evolve and feed from the material that surround them.

 

As the fourth female Nobel Laureate in Physics, Ghez describes the Prize as "an opportunity and a responsibility to encouraging young women into the sciences and the next generation of scientists”[1].

 

To view a brief overview of the TMT project with Professor Andrea Ghez and Professor Richard Ellis from 2009, you may click here: https://vimeo.com/8373845

 

[1] Ghez’s phone interview with the chief scientific officer of Nobel Media, YouTube Channel, Andrea Ghez: "It amazes me every time I go to the telescope"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNUJ8Uknv-M

 


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