Gravitational Wave Observations

Physics Nobel for discoveries about Black Holes

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Black Holes

Mains level : Black holes and gravitation waves

Three scientists won this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics for advancing our understanding of black holes, the all-consuming monsters that lurk in the darkest parts of the universe.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Recently, scientists observed the merger of giant ‘blackholes’ billions of light-years away from the Earth. What is the significance of this observation?

(a) ‘Higgs boson particles’ were detected.

(b) ‘Gravitational waves’ were detected.

(c) Possibility of inter-galactic space travel through ‘wormhole’ was confirmed.

(d) It enabled the scientists to understand ‘singularity’.

Who are these laureates?

  • Briton Roger Penrose received half of this year’s prize for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity.
  • German Reinhard Genzel and American Andrea Ghez received the second half of the prize for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the centre of our galaxy.

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.
  • For instance, for a spacecraft to leave the surface of the Earth, it needs to be travelling at a speed of about 40,000 km per hour.
  • 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.
  • And the reason light cannot escape is mainly that the gravity inside a black hole is very strong as a result of a lot of matter being squeezed into a small space.

Their contributions

  • Penrose has been awarded the prize for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity.
  • Genzel and Ghez have been awarded the prize for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the centre of our galaxy.
  • Penrose’s work has shown that black holes are a direct consequence of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
  • Einstein himself did not believe that black holes exist and presented his theory in November 1915, providing a new way to look at and understand the gravity that shapes the universe “at the largest scale”.
  • Penrose used Einstein’s general theory of relativity in order to prove that the process of formation of black holes is a stable one.
  • Genzel and Ghez, on the other hand, have discovered that an invisible and an extremely heavy object governs the stars’ orbit at the centre of the Milky Way.
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