The American astronomer and professor at the University of California, Andrea Ghez, just won the Nobel Prize in Physics this year for his innovative work on black holes.
But Ghez, who is only the fourth woman to ever receive the coveted award, doesn’t take the award very seriously. When asked what would happen if someone fell into a black hole, she gave a grim answer. “So, if you were to think about what it would be like to fall into a black hole with your feet forward, the first thing that would happen would be that the attraction of gravity is so strong in your feet, more than in your head, that in fact, you would have torn it, ”she told France-Press.
“We would not feel anything because we would not exist, we would not survive, we would be divided into our fundamental pieces,” she added. “I wouldn’t want to do that.”
Ghez shares the award this year with Reinhard Genzel, astrophysicist and co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics. Ghez and her team recently celebrated 25 years of studying the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way, called Sagittarius A *, using the Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea in Hawaii.
Thanks to the telescope’s detailed resolution, her work allowed us to track the orbits of the stars surrounding the black hole, despite a massive layer of gas and interstellar dust blocking our view. Her research has given us the strongest evidence that what is hidden in the center of our galaxy is a supermassive black hole.
“What Andrea Ghez and Reinhard Genzel did was one of the coolest things ever – the unveiling of the stars in the center of our galaxy orbiting a black hole too small to be seen with a telescope,” said Peter Fisher, professor and chief MIT Department of Physics, in a statement.
“It’s very difficult to conceptualize a black hole,” Ghez told AFP. “The laws of physics are so different near a black hole than here on Earth that the things we are looking for are very difficult to explain.”