Congratulations to astronomy and cosmology trio for Nobel Prize for Physics

8 Oct 2019 03:35 PM

STFC’s astronomy community congratulates the three winners of this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics: Professor James Peebles, Professor Michel Mayor and Professor Didier Queloz.

The Nobel Prize for Physics 2019 was awarded "for contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the universe and Earth's place in the cosmos" with one half to Professor Peebles "for theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology", the other half jointly to Professor Mayor and Professor Queloz "for the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star".

Professor Peebles’ theoretical discoveries contributed to our understanding of how the universe evolved after the Big Bang, while Professor Mayor and Professor Queloz explored our cosmic neighbourhoods on the hunt for unknown planets. Their discoveries have forever changed our conceptions of the world.

Professors Mayor and Queloz opened the field for exoplanet research, as their discovery in 1995 of an Earth-like planet captured the imagination of future astronomers. Since then, there have been many more discoveries of Earth-like planets (over 100 Earth-like planets and over 4,000 exoplanets up to today). STFC currently funds Professor Queloz at the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, where he is continuing his work in this field. 

STFC Executive Chair Professor Mark Thomson yesterday said of the award:

“On behalf of STFC I would like to warmly congratulate Professor Didier Queloz, Professor Michel Mayor and Professor James Peebles on being awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics. STFC has supported the hunt for exoplanets for many years, and it is incredibly pleasing to see this exciting area of astronomy recognised for the breakthroughs that have been achieved in just the last 30 years. The work of Professor Queloz and Professor Mayor paved the way for the new generation of astronomers to join this growing field – building on their initial discovery of the first Earth-like planet in 1995, to where we are today with over 4,000 known exoplanets. STFC continues to support Professor Queloz in his ground-breaking work, and we look forward with anticipation to new discoveries in this incredibly exciting field of astronomy.”

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, yesterday said:

“Many congratulations to Didier Queloz, alongside James Peebles and Michel Mayor, for the award of the Nobel Prize for contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the universe and Earth’s place in the cosmos.

“Professor Queloz and Professor Mayor opened the field for exoplanetary research, which has captured the imagination of the astronomical community and led to the discovery of many more Earth-like planets. UKRI supports Professor Queloz’s continuing work in this field, based at the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge.

“Professor Queloz is also helping to support the next generation of research leaders through his role on the panel for UKRI’s Future Leaders Fellowships.”

Professor Queloz is also in receipt of STFC funding for leading the HARPS3 project which will have a high-resolution stabilised spectrograph deployed on the Isaac Newton Telescope in the Canary Islands. HARPS3 will conduct a 10-year survey aimed at discovering Earth-mass planets in Earth-like orbits around the nearest G and K-type dwarf stars.

You can read the full citation from the Nobel Committee here.