Australian Scientist Shares Nobel Prize for Physics
Nick Gilbert
at 23:53 PM Oct 4 2011
Australian Scientist Shares Nobel Prize for Physics
A Nobel Prize medal
The Nobel Foundation
Science // 

A scientist from the Australian National University has, along with two American scientists, been named a Nobel Laureate for his work charting the expansion of the known universe, in particular the discovery that said expansion is happening at an increasingly fast rate.

Dr Brian Schmidt, born in Montana U.S.A before moving to Australia in the mid 1990's, is currently a Laureate Fellow astronomer at ANU in Canberra. 

"I was somewhat suspicious when the Swedish voice came on," Dr Schmidt said to the Associated Press. "My knees sort of went weak and I had to walk around and sort my senses out."

The Prize is being awarded for the study into the expansion of the universe by studying the light from supernovae.

Dr Schmidt and Dr Adam Riess from John Hopkins University in Maryland share one half of the prize, while Dr Saul Perlmutter, from the University of California Berkeley, has the other.

By studying a particular variety of supernova formed by Earth sized, but super dense, stars, teams headed by Dr Schmidt and Dr Perlmutter were able to determine that the amount of light being emitted by around 50 of these supernovae was weaker than otherwise expected.

It is from this fact that they were able to determine that the universe was in fact accelerating.

According to the Nobel Prize citation, this discovery is huge in cosmological terms, primarily because "if the expansion [continues] to speed up the Universe will end in ice."

The discovery may also provide new insights into dark matter, that mysterious substance theoretically responsible for a whole range of cosmological phenomena, not least of all this universal expansion.

Dr Schmidt is also responsible for the SkyMapper project at ANU. SkyMapper is an automated survey telescope in central NSW that collects about 100mb of data every second of surveillance. The data it collects will also be used to pick the juiciest targets for things like the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder.

With any luck, having a Nobel Prize winner amongst our cosmological ranks will do wonders for the Australian bid for the Square Kilometer Array.

The Nobel Prize announcements continue tomorrow with the Prize for Chemistry.

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