Three Americans awarded Nobel Prize in physics

Nearly $1.5 million prize to be split among US scientists for discovery that universe expansion is accelerating.

nobelphysics 311 R (photo credit: REUTERS/Leif R Jansson)
nobelphysics 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS/Leif R Jansson)
STOCKHOLM - Three scientists shared the 2011 Nobel Prize for physics for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe through observations of exploding stars, the prize committee said on Tuesday.
One half of the 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.45 million) went to US citizen Saul Perlmutter and the other half to US-Australian citizen Brian Schmidt and US scientist Adam Riess.
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"They have studied several dozen exploding stars, called supernovae, and discovered that the universe is expanding at an ever-accelerating rate," said the Nobel Committee for Physics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the prize. 
For almost a century, the Universe has been known to be expanding as a consequence of the Big Bang about 14 billion years ago. However, the discovery that this expansion is accelerating is astounding, said the committee, noting if the expansion continues to speed up, the Universe will end frozen, the prize committee said.
"The discovery came as a complete surprise, even to the laureates themselves," the committee added in a statement. 
The Nobel Prize in Physics, awarded for both pioneering discoveries and groundbreaking inventions in recent years, has been awarded 105 times since 1901.
Yesterday, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to American Bruce Beutler,  French biologist Jules Hoffmann and the Canadian-born Ralph Steinman, who died last Friday.