July 27, 2007

The two teams of researchers who pioneered in discovering the accelerating expansion of the universe—the Supernova Cosmology Project and the High-Z Supernova Search Team—have both been awarded for their efforts.

The 2007 Gruber Cosmology Prize has been awarded jointly to Saul Perlmutter of the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California at Berkeley, Brian Schmidt of the Australian National University, and members of the two international teams that these researchers led.
The announcement by both teams, early in 1998, that the expansion of the universe is not slowing, as almost all astronomers had expected, but instead is expanding ever faster, led to the realization that the universe is dominated by a mysterious something that stretches space and works against the mutual gravitational attraction of ordinary matter and energy. Dark energy, as it was soon named, is now believed to constitute some three-quarters of the density of the universe, with dark matter making up most of the rest.

The Foundation mentioned the teams’ intense competition to determine the expansion rate of the universe, and how, based on their observations of distant supernovae the two teams, “racing neck and neck, simultaneously came to the same conclusion."

The recognition of the whole team is rare for such an award, but one of the honorees said the fact that the collaboration is explicitly named is an encouragement to young researchers to get together and start a project.
The Gruber Foundation Announcement of the 2007 Cosmology Prize can be read online.