How was the Universe formed? The structure of the Universe can be traced back to small fluctuations of the cosmic microwave background radiation 380,000 years after Big Bang. As the Universe expanded the fluctuations increased and after a few hundred million years the first small galaxies were formed. These building blocks grew into successively larger structures such as large galaxies, clusters of galaxies and super clusters. The main organizing factor for this build up is thought to be gravity wells formed from the dark matter of the Universe. This year´s Crafoord laureates have made fundamental contributions during the last decades to our understanding of this process.
James Gunn first made theoretical contributions to the field of galaxy formation, the gaseous medium between galaxies and the presence of dark matter in galaxies. Later, he has played a central role in several observational projects, like the Hubble telescope and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which aims to chart the properties of one million galaxies.
James Peebles predicted some of the most important properties of the fluctuations of the microwave background radiation already around 1970. He later developed the basis for the statistical description of the structure in the Universe. He has for a long time been one of the main advocates for the hierarchical view of structure formation.
Sir Martin Rees early on recognized the importance of dark matter for the formation and properties of galaxies. This has stimulated extensive computer simulations of the large-scale structure. He has also suggested observational tests for early star and galaxy formation.
*) Please note! Professor Gunn should not be confused with his namesake, the science fiction writer.
James E. Gunn, born 1938, 66 years old (US citizen), PhD from California Institute of Technology 1966. Eugene Higgins Professor of Astronomy, Princeton University, New Jersey, USA.
P. James E. Peebles, born 1935, 69 years old (US citizen), PhD 1962 at Princeton University. Albert Einstein Professor of Science, (Emeritus), Princeton University, New Jersey, USA.
Martin J. Rees, born 1942, 62 years old, (UK citizen). PhD in 1967 at Cambridge University, Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge, England.
The Prize amount: USD 500,000, shared equally between the Laureates. The Prize is to be awarded in September.
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