Nobel prize in physics awarded for research on cosmology and exoplanets

Henrietta Strickland
October 9, 2019

Mayor and Queloz are recognized for their 1995 discovery of the first planet outside our solar system orbiting a Sun-type star, an exoplanet.

"Cells and tissues are constantly experiencing changes in oxygen availability".

Peebles immediately went to work trying to understand the physics underlying different aspects of the Big Bang, showing how temperature and matter density influenced the production of helium in the Universe's earliest moments.

"The whole universe was in the hot, dense state, then almost 14 billion years ago expansion started", academy member Ulf Danielsson said at the start of the presentation, using the opening words of the "Big Bang" theme song. "Although we've made great advances, there are still many open questions".

His work was transformative in shifting the understanding of the hot expanding universe from qualitative to precise, in revealing the existence of dark matter, and for pointing out the puzzles that remain, said Paul Steinhardt, a professor of physics at Princeton. "I'd say this is essentially a textbook discovery".

"When I started working in this subject - I can tell you the date, 1964 -at the invitation of my mentor, Professor Robert Henry Dicke, I was very uneasy about going into this subject because the experimental observational basis was so modest. That's what I did".

James Peebles, who earned his doctoral degree from Princeton in 1962, was announced as one of three winners of the award on Tuesday. Using custom-made instruments at the Haute-Provence Observatory in southern France, the duo was able to see 51 Pegasi b, a gas giant comparable to Jupiter, according to the Nobel Prize organization.

More than 4,000 exoplanets have since been found in the Milky Way, and scientists think one out of every four or five stars have planets.

In a statement, the two astronomers hailed their win as "simply extraordinary", saying the discovery was "the most exciting of our careers". Professor at University of Geneva, Switzerland.

"In the past, astronomy has been included primarily when the discovery involves some new physics", Rees said. He also anticipated the return of the cosmological constant, which is a possible explanation for at least some of what we now view as dark energy-even though the evidence for dark energy didn't come until decades later. The laureates will receive them at a ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of the death of prize founder Alfred Nobel in 1896, together with five other Nobel winners.

This year, the Nobel week will include an award in chemistry, to be announced Wednesday, two literature laureates, the coveted Nobel Peace Prize and the economics award.

The three physician scientists found a molecular switch that regulates how our cells adapt when oxygen levels drop. And in 2017, alumnus Michael Landry [PhD/00] shared the Noble Prize in Physics for his work leading a team that observed gravitational waves, a phenomenon first predicted by Albert Einstein 100 years ago.

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