Discoverers of Accelerating Universe Win 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics

ESO telescopes and staff played major role

4 October 2011

The 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded "for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae". One half of the prize goes to Saul Perlmutter (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California, Berkeley, USA) and the other half jointly to Brian P. Schmidt (Australian National University), and Adam G. Riess (STScI, Baltimore, USA).

Observations from ESO’s observatories in Chile contributed to the discovery, which is one of ESO’s all-time Top-10 of scientific discoveries. The 3.6-metre and NTT telescopes at La Silla and the 8.2-metre VLT telescopes at Paranal provided vital data to both teams. In addition two of the followup projects were led by ESO staff, Chris Lidman and Bruno Leibundgut, and other ESO staff members, Isobel Hook and Jason Spyromilio, were contributors to crucial papers. This was a global effort involving most of the major observatories around the world.

By making many very careful and accurate observations of exploding stars known as Type Ia supernovae, teams led by the Nobel Prize laureates established that the expansion of the Universe was not slowing down, as had been expected in a Universe dominated by matter, but was accelerating. The acceleration is thought to be driven by dark energy, but its origin remains deeply mysterious. The discovery of the accelerating expansion led to a total revision of astronomers' view of the Universe as a whole and opened up a new world of cosmology and fundamental physics.



Bruno Leibundgut
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6295
Cell: +49 151 14 17 61 23

Richard Hook
Public Information Officer, ESO
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6655

About the Announcement



NTT images of the supernova 1995K
NTT images of the supernova 1995K