© The Nobel Foundation. Photo: U. Montan
Adam G. Riess
The Nobel Prize in Physics 2011
Born: 16 December 1969, Washington, DC, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD, USA
Prize motivation: "for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae."
Prize share: 1/4
Adam Riess grew up in Warren, New Jersey, where his father ran a frozen-foods distribution company and his mother worked as a psychologist. After receiving his PhD from Harvard University in 1996, he was employed at the University of California, Berkeley, where he became a member of the High-Z Supernova Search Team, within which he conducted his Nobel Prize-awarded work. Adam Riess moved to the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland in 1999. He has held a professorship at Johns Hopkins University since 2005. He is married with two children.
The universe's stars and galaxies are moving away from one another; the universe is expanding. Up until recently, the majority of astrophysicists believed that this expansion would eventually wane, due to the effect of opposing gravitational forces. Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt, and Adam Riess studied exploding stars, called supernovae. Because the light emitted by stars appears weaker from a larger distance and takes on a reddish hue as it moves further from the observer, the researchers were able to determine how the supernovae moved. In 1998 they reached a surprising result: the universe is expanding at an ever-increasing rate.