Adam Riess Awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics

Nobel Prize Winner Adam Riess, Photo Credit: Steve Spartana

Adam Riess has many titles: astrophysicist, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor in Physics and Astronomy at The Johns Hopkins University, scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute, and now a Nobel Prize winner. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded Riess and University of California, Berkeley astrophysicist Saul Perlmutter the Nobel Prize in Physics for work that was completed in 1998. Riess was team leader for the High-z Team, a group that discovered the universe expansion rate is accelerating. The phenomenon of the accelerating expansion rate has been attributed to “dark energy”, an unexplained form of energy in the universe.

Riess and Perlmutter are probably accustomed to sharing prestigious awards for their work. In 2007 they were awarded the Peter Gruber Foundation Cosmology Prize for the discovery of dark energy. According to a press release by Johns Hopkins University, in 2006 they also shared the Shaw Prize in astronomy, awarded again for their discovery of dark energy. Riess expressed his gratitude to the Nobel Foundation and said, “My involvement in the discovery of the accelerating universe and its implications for the presence of dark energy has been an incredibly exciting adventure. I have also been fortunate to work with tremendous colleagues and powerful facilities. I am deeply honored that this work has been recognized.”

The discovery of dark energy has arguably forever changed the field of astrophysics. Riess and his team are currently trying to measure the stability of dark energy and determine how it has evolved with the universe. Riess is continuing to use his Hubble Space Telescope supernovae observations to identify and characterize dark energy. He and his team are also using the Hubble Telescope to analyze pulsating stars to assist in improving the measurement of the expansion rate of the universe.

With this award, Riess has become the 35th person associated with The Johns Hopkins University to win a Nobel Prize. The prize was also shared with one other researcher, Brian Schmidt, who also aided in the discovery.

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