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Two Americans Share Nobel Physics Prize

  • Tom Rivers

Scientists John Mather and George Smoot garnered the top physics prize for their work at NASA in 1989 that helped to shed more light on very beginnings of the universe and the origin of galaxies and stars.

The award was for discovering the nature of so-called 'blackbody radiation' - the cosmic background radiation believed to stem from the Big Bang when the universe was created.

Their work was based on measurements taken from the NASA launched Cosmic Background Explorer satellite.

The ripples of light they detected go back to the early stages of the universe, about 380,000 years after it was born.

In its citation, the Nobel Academy in Stockholm said their observations have played a major role in the development of modern cosmology into a precise science.

In a practical sense, Mather and Smoot transformed the study of the early universe from a theoretical point of view to one of direct observation and measurement.

The Big Bang theory as it is called, states that the universe was borne of a dense and incredibly hot state roughly 14 billion years ago.

In Nobel terms, the award has come relative soon after their discovery. In the past, decades have often elapsed before recognition comes.

Smoot at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California calls the prize 'a great honor'. Mather at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland says he is 'thrilled and amazed.' The two scientists will share the nearly 1.4 million dollar prize.

And their work will live on. NASA has recently launched a new probe that will examine cosmic background radiation in even finer detail.

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