Three win Nobel prize in physics for astronomy research

Wednesday, October 9, 2002

STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- A Japanese and two American astrophysicists won the Nobel Prize in physics Tuesday for using some of the most obscure particles and waves in nature to increase understanding of the universe.

Riccardo Giacconi, 71, of the Associated Universities Inc. in Washington, D.C., will get half of the $1 million prize for his role in "pioneering contributions to astrophysics, which have led to the discovery of cosmic X-ray sources."

Raymond Davis Jr., 87, of the University of Pennsylvania shares the other half of the prize with Japanese scientist Masatoshi Koshiba, 76, of the University of Tokyo. The two men pioneered the construction of giant underground chambers to detect neutrinos, elusive particles that stream from the sun by the billion.

Neutrinos offer a unique view of the sun's inner workings because they are produced in its heart by the same process that causes it to shine. Davis' early experiments, performed during the 1960s in a South Dakota gold mine, confirmed that the sun is powered by nuclear fusion.

His experiments were described in the citation as "considerably more difficult than finding a particular grain of sand in the whole of the Sahara desert."

Koshiba won his share of the prize for his work at the Kamiokande neutrino detector in Japan. That experiment confirmed and extended Davis' work.

The Italian-born Giacconi, a U.S. citizen, was cited for building the first X-ray telescopes that provided "completely new -- and sharp -- images of the universe," the academy said.

The winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry will be named today. The literature prize winner will be announced on Thursday, and the winner of the peace prize will be announced Friday.

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