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'Simply extraordinary': Swiss cosmologists win Nobel Prize in Physics

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'Simply extraordinary': Swiss cosmologists win Nobel Prize in Physics
Photo: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / AFP
12:35 CEST+02:00
Swiss scientists Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz, along with Canadian-American James Peebles, have won the Nobel Physics Prize for their work in cosmology.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the prize on Tuesday. 

Follow: The Local's Nobel Physics Prize live blog

Peebles won one-half of the prize "for theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology," while Mayor and Queloz shared the other half "for the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star," professor Goran Hansson, secretary general of the academy, told a press conference.

The Swiss pair hailed their win as "simply extraordinary". 

According to a press release from the Nobel Foundation, the Swiss scientists used custom-made instruments to make their findings, which may pave the way for the discovery of extraterrestrial life. 

“Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz explored our cosmic neighbourhoods on the hunt for unknown planets. Their discoveries have forever changed our conceptions of the world,” it read. 

 

 

 

"In October 1995, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz announced the first discovery of a planet outside our solar system, an exoplanet, orbiting a solar-type star in our home galaxy, the Milky Way. At the Haute-Provence Observatory in southern France, using custom-made instruments, they were able to see planet 51 Pegasi b, a gaseous ball comparable with the solar system's biggest gas giant, Jupiter.

"This discovery started a revolution in astronomy and over 4,000 exoplanets have since been found in the Milky Way. Strange new worlds are still being discovered, with an incredible wealth of sizes, forms and orbits. They challenge our preconceived ideas about planetary systems and are forcing scientists to revise their theories of the physical processes behind the origins of planets.

“With numerous projects planned to start searching for exoplanets, we may eventually find an answer to the eternal question of whether other life is out there."

In addition to the international recognition afforded by the award, Mayor and Queloz will split half of the overall award of 9 million Swedish krona (CHF900,000/€830,000). 

The prize also consists of a gold medal and a diploma.

The trio will receive the prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of scientist Alfred Nobel who created the prizes in his last will and testament.

In 2018, the honour went to Arthur Ashkin of the US, Gerard Mourou of France and Donna Strickland of the US for laser inventions used for advanced precision instruments in corrective eye surgery and in industry.

After Marie Curie in 1903 and German-American scientist Maria Goeppert-Mayer in 1963, Strickland became just the third woman to be awarded the Physics Prize since 1901.

This year's Nobel prize season kicked off on Monday with the Medicine Prize awarded to Americans William Kaelin and Gregg Semenza, and Britain's Peter Ratcliffe.

They were honoured for research into how human cells sense and adapt to changing oxygen levels, which opens up new strategies to fight such diseases as cancer and anaemia.

The winners of this year's Chemistry Prize will be announced on Wednesday. The Literature Prize will follow on Thursday, with two laureates to be crowned after a sexual harassment scandal forced the Swedish Academy to postpone the 2018 award, for the first time in 70 years.

On Friday the action moves to Norway where the Peace Prize is awarded, with bookies predicting a win for Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg on betting sites such as Ladbrokes.

 
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