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Schmidt said he was just sitting down to have dinner with his family in Canberra, Australia, when the phone call came from the academy.

“I was somewhat suspicious when the Swedish voice came on,” Schmidt said. “My knees sort of went weak and I had to walk around and sort my senses out.”

Riess said his “jaw dropped” when he got an early morning call at his home in Baltimore from a bunch of Swedish men and realized “it wasn’t Ikea,” the Swedish furniture retailer. “I’m dazed,” he said.

Perlmutter said his team made the discovery in steps, analyzing the data and assuming it was wrong.

“And after months, you finally believe it,” he said. “It’s not quite a surprise anymore. I tell people it’s the longest `Aha!’ experience that you’ve ever had.”

Fred Dylla, executive director of the American Institute of Physics, said the discovery confirmed an idea from Albert Einstein called the cosmological constant. Einstein included this in his general theory of relativity, a cornerstone of modern physics.

The Nobel Prizes were established in the will of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel and have been awarded since 1901. The prizes are presented to the winners every year on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death in 1896.

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Karl Ritter reported from Stockholm. Louise Nordstrom and Malin Rising in Stockholm, Kristen Gelineau in Sydney, Jessica Gresko in Washington and Greg Moore in Phoenix contributed.