Three scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday for their discoveries on black holes, the regions of space that have for generations been surrounded by mystery.
According to Reuters, British scientist Roger Penrose, Germany’s Reinhard Genzel and American Andrea Ghez will share the prize.
The Associated Press reported that the Nobel Committee gave Penrose half of the roughly $1.1 million prize, “for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of” Albert Einstein’s “general theory of relativity.”
Ganzel and Ghez won the second half for “the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the center of our galaxy.”
The committee described Tuesday’s prize as a celebration of research on “one of the most exotic objects in the universe.”
Black holes have captivated both scientists and the general public for decades.
The compact centers of mass are believed to be at the center of each galaxy, with smaller ones scattered throughout the universe. The AP noted that nothing, including light, can escape a black hole’s gravity.
Scientists captured the first optical image of a black hole in 2019.
“Black holes, because they are so hard to understand, is what makes them so appealing,” Ghez told the AP on Tuesday. “I really think of science as a big, giant puzzle.”
She told an audience at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences following the announcement on Tuesday that black holes are "critical to the building blocks of the universe."
Ghez is the fourth woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for physics, after Marie Curie in 1903, Maria Goeppert-Mayer in 1963 and Donna Strickland in 2018.
“I hope I can inspire other young women into the field. It’s a field that has so many pleasures. And if you’re passionate about the science, there’s so much that can be done,” Ghez said.
Announcements of the winners for each Nobel Prize will continue into next week. The Nobel for chemistry is scheduled to be awarded on Wednesday, followed by the award for literature on Thursday, the Peace Prize on Friday and the economics award next Monday.