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  • $1M Shaw Astronomy Prize Hails Dark Energy Discovery
Jun 2006
HONG KONG, June 23, 2006 -- Three astronomers working on competing research teams that reached the same conclusion -- that the universe expansion is accelerating -- have received the $1 million Shaw Prize in Astronomy for 2006, the prize's astronomy committee announced this week.
ShawPrize2006.jpgAstronomers Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute and Johns Hopkins University and Brian Schmidt of the Mount Stromlo Observatory of the Australian National University in Canberra, who were leaders of one team, share the prize with Saul Perlmutter, a member of the physics division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a physics professor at the University of California Berkeley, who was principal investigator on a competing team.

Riess and Schmidt's collaborative, the High-z Supernova Search team, and Perlmutter's competing group, the Supernova Cosmology Project, an international collaboration of researchers based at Berkeley Lab, independently found that not only is the universe's expansion accelerating, but that acceleration implies the existence of dark energy, which acts to oppose gravity and increase the distance among galaxies ever more rapidly. The two teams' findings, announced at nearly the same time, were jointly named the "breakthrough of the year" by the journal Science in 1998. The nature of dark energy is still unknown and has been called the most important problem facing physicists in the 21st century.

The Shaw Prize committee said the discovery "...has profound implications that may revolutionize our understanding of the nature of the physical world and its ultimate fate. It is an achievement that is already taught to schoolchildren."

The Shaw Prizes, which have been called "the Nobel Prizes of the East," have been granted annually since 2004 in the fields of astronomy, medicine and life sciences, and mathematical sciences. Dedicated to "furthering societal progress, enhancing quality of life, and enriching humanity's spiritual civilization," the prizes were established by Sir Run Run Shaw, a Hong Kong motion picture and television producer, and are administered by the Shaw Foundation, which is based in Hong Kong.

"I'm delighted that the Shaw Foundation has decided to recognize research aimed at learning the history and fate of the universe," Perlmutter said. "It's a wonderful reminder to people of how exciting it is to be alive at a time when it's possible to address these ancient philosophical questions with experimental means. That there are three co-winners also underscores how such work is dependent on the teams' efforts and on the community of scientists that they are a part of."

The three will be formally presented with the prize on Sept. 12 in Hong Kong. For more information, visit:

The scientific observation of celestial radiation that has reached the vicinity of Earth, and the interpretation of these observations to determine the characteristics of the extraterrestrial bodies and phenomena that have emitted the radiation.
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