Pavel Alekseyevich Cherenkov
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1958
Born: 28 July 1904, Novaya Chigla, Russia
Died: 6 January 1990, USSR (now Russia)
Affiliation at the time of the award: P.N. Lebedev Physical Institute, Moscow, USSR (now Russia)
Prize motivation: “for the discovery and the interpretation of the Cherenkov effect”
Prize share: 1/3
In certain media the speed of light is lower than in a vacuum and particles can travel faster than light. One result of this was discovered in 1934 by Pavel Cherenkov, when he saw a bluish light around a radioactive preparation placed in water. Igor Tamm and Ilya Frank explained the phenomenon in 1937. On their way through a medium, charged particles disturb electrons in the medium. When these resume their position, they emit light. Normally this does not produce any light that can be observed, but if the particle moves faster than light, a kind of backwash of light appears.