University of California Berkeley professor awarded 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics

ByAndrew Morris KGO logo
Tuesday, October 6, 2020
UC Berkeley professor wins 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics
The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded jointly to University of California Berkeley professor Reinhard Genzel, UCLA professor Andrea Ghez and Roger Penrose.

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (KGO) -- Three brilliants minds have been crowned the newest recipients of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics for advancing our understanding of black holes.

Reinhard Genzel, a professor at UC Berkeley, split the award with UCLA professor, Andrea Ghez, and Roger Penrose of England.

Genzel is a German astrophysicist, who first joined the Berkeley Physics Department in 1981 before multiple stops at several other prestigious universities, according to his biography on the UC Berkeley website. He returned as a full professor in 1999.

The announcement Tuesday in Stockholm, Sweden was awarded to both Genzel and Ghez "for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the center of our galaxy," said the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

RELATED: 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded to Sacramento native Charles M. Rice

Their work celebrates "one of the most exotic objects in the universe," black holes, which have become a staple of science fiction and science fact and where time even seems to stand still, Nobel committee scientists said.

Genzel and Ghez looked at the dust-covered center of our Milky Way galaxy where something strange was going on, several stars moving around something they couldn't see. It was a black hole. Not just an ordinary black hole, but a supermassive black hole, four million times the mass of our sun.

Now scientists know that all galaxies have supermassive black holes.

RELATED: Former Berkeley professor wins Nobel Prize in Medicine

The prestigious Nobel Prize comes with a gold medal and prize money of over $1.1 million courtesy of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel.

The distinction for Genzel and Ghez came a day after another University of California professor won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, Sacramento native and UC Davis professor, Charles M. Rice.

The other prizes are awarded in the fields of chemistry, literature, peace and economics.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.