When Brian Schmidt got his PhD in astrophysics in 1993, he was one of less than a handful of people that year that graduated with a thesis on supernovae. Five years later, still working on exploding stars, he would be part of one of two teams that independently discovered that the universe was not only expanding, but that its expansion was accelerating.
That the expansion of the universe is accelerating means it is being pushed apart by some kind of energy embedded in the fabric of space itself. This energy makes up over 70% of the universe. We call it dark energy, mainly because we are in the dark about what it actually is.
The 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Brian Schmidt, along with Adam Reiss, who worked with Schmidt as part of the High-z Supernova Search Team, and Saul Perlmutter, who headed the rival Supernova Cosmology Project, for their discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe. The announcement of the prize called dark energy “perhaps the greatest enigma in physics today”.
When Schmidt attended the 62nd Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting in Germany earlier this month, I met him and found out more about the discovery.To read more, click here.