October 5, 2011
Revised October 6 @ 5:30 pm EDT
Washington -- The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy Inc. (AURA) congratulates Adam Riess, Saul Perlmutter, and Brian Schmidt, winners of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics. The prize was awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for research on the expansion of the universe, using observations that depended critically on AURA-operated facilities.
Riess is an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), as well as the Krieger-Eisenhower professor in physics and astronomy at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Schmidt is from the Australian National University, and Perlmutter is an astrophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
The academy recognized the trio for the discovery that the expansion rate of the universe is accelerating, a phenomenon widely attributed to an unexplained "dark energy" filling the universe.
The work was done with the Hubble Space Telescope, telescopes run by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), especially the 4-meter Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tololo International Observatory (CTIO) in Chile, and telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, as well as many of the other major telescopes around the world including the Gemini Observatory. "We are incredibly proud that our centers, NOAO, STScI and Gemini played a key role in this paradigm-shifting work," said AURA Vice President Heidi B. Hammel.
NOAO facilities, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), will continue to play an important role in understanding dark energy. In the near future, the Dark Energy Survey will begin operations on the Blanco telescope; there are plans for a large instrument (BigBOSS) for NOAO's Mayall 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak; and NOAO is a partner in the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope to be built near CTIO.
"The work of Reiss and others has completely transformed our understanding of the universe," said Waleed Abdalati, NASA chief scientist. "This award also recognizes the tremendous contributions of the technological community that engineered, deployed, and serviced the Hubble Space Telescope, which continues to open new doors to discovery after more than 20 years of peering deep into the universe. With the future launch of the even more powerful James Webb Space Telescope, NASA is ensuring more revolutionary science discoveries like these in our future."
NOAO and Gemini are managed by AURA on behalf of the NSF; AURA manages STScI on behalf of NASA.
For more on NOAO's role, see http://www.noao.edu/news/2011/pr1104.php
For more on Hubble's role, see
For more on Gemini's role, see http://www.gemini.edu/node/11688
Heidi B. Hammel, Executive Vice President
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