Penrose, professor at the University of Oxford, won half the prize of 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.1 million) for his work using mathematics to prove that black holes are a direct consequence of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
Genzel, of the Max Planck Institute and University of California, Berkeley, and Ghez, at the University of California, Los Angeles, shared the other half for discovering that an invisible and extremely heavy object governs the orbits of stars at the center of our galaxy.
Ghez - only the fourth woman to be awarded the Physics prize after Marie Curie in 1903, Maria Goeppert-Mayer in 1963 and Donna Strickland in 2018 - said she hoped it would inspire others.
Asked about the discovery of a massive yet invisible object at the heart of the Milky Way, Ghez said “the first thing is doubt.”
“You have to prove to yourself that what you are really seeing is what you think you are seeing. So, both doubt and excitement,” the 55-year-old astronomer said in a call with the committee after receiving the award.