ESO Staff Share 2015 Breakthrough Prize

11 November 2014

ESO staff members are part of two teams that have been awarded the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for their discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe.

On 9 November 2014 the 2015 Breakthrough Prize [1] in Fundamental Physics was awarded to the Supernova Cosmology Project and the High-z Supernova Project. The scientists are honoured “for the most unexpected discovery that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating, rather than slowing as had been long assumed”. This discovery was the climactic moment of twentieth-century cosmology, and has mapped the terrain for the current era of exploration.

The prize consists of a cash award of three million US dollars that will be shared between the team members. The Nobel Laureates Saul Perlmutter from the University of California, Berkley and the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, Brian P. Schmidt from the Australian National University and Adam Riess from Johns Hopkins University and the Space Telescope Science Institute accepted the prize on behalf of both groups.

The teams comprise 51 members [2] including Bruno Leibundgut, Jason Spyromilio — both at ESO — and two former ESO staff members Isobel Hook and Chris Lidman. The New Technology Telescope and the ESO 3.6-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory both played significant roles in this work.

The award ceremony was hosted by Seth MacFarlane and also featured Kate Beckinsale, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cameron Diaz, Jon Hamm and Eddie Redmayne as presenters. The ceremony will be televised globally on 22 November 2014 on BBC World News.


[1] The annual Breakthrough Prizes in fundamental physics, life sciences and mathematics, are sponsored by Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife, Anne Wojcicki, a founder of the genetics company 23andMe; Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma and his wife, Cathy Zhang; Russian entrepreneur and venture capitalist Yuri Milner and his wife, Julia; and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. The goal is to celebrate scientists and generate excitement about the pursuit of science as a career.

[2]  The Supernova Search Team was represented by Adam Riess and Brian Schmidt for Peter Challis, Alejandro Clocchiatti, Alan Diercks, Alexei V. Filippenko, Peter M. Garnavich, Ron L. Gilliland, Craig J. Hogan, Saurabh Jha, Robert P. Kirshner, Bruno Leibundgut, Mark M. Phillips, David Reiss, R. Chris Smith, Jason Spyromilio, Christopher Stubbs, Nicholas B. Suntzeff and John Tonry.

The Supernova Cosmology Project Team B was represented by Saul Perlmutter for Greg Aldering, Brian J. Boyle, Patricia G. Castro, Warrick J. Couch, Susana Deustua, Richard S. Ellis, Sebastien Fabbro, Alexei V. Filippenko, Andrew S. Fruchter, Ariel Goobar, Donald E. Groom, Isobel M. Hook, Mike Irwin, Alex G. Kim, Matthew Y. Kim, Robert A. Knop, Julia C. Lee, Chris Lidman, Thomas Matheson, Richard G. McMahon, Richard Muller, Heidi J. M. Newberg, Peter Nugent, Nelson J. Nunes, Reynald Pain, Nino Panagia, Carl R. Pennypacker, Robert Quimby, Pilar Ruiz-Lapuente, Bradley E. Schaefer and Nicholas Walton.



Richard Hook
ESO education and Public Outreach Department
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
Cell: +49 151 1537 3591

About the Announcement



Members of the teams that won the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics
Members of the teams that won the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics