Swedish academy announces 2019 Nobel Prize winners in physics

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Thursday, October 10, 2019

Peebles, 2010
Image: Juan Diego Soler.
Queloz (l) and Mayor (r), 2012
Image: European Southern Observatory.

On Tuesday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics in Stockholm, Sweden. The prize was shared between James Peebles and the duo of Didier Queloz and Michel Mayor. They are to share a monetary award of SEK9 million (approximately GBP738 thousand or USD910 thousand) from the Nobel Foundation.

Canadian-US scientist James Peebles won his half of the prize for his work in predicting cosmic microwave background and creating a theoretical framework from which other scientists have been able to calculate the age and structure of the universe, including the calculation that the universe is 95% dark matter and dark energy. He is a professor at Princeton University.

Queloz and Mayor, both from Switzerland, won their prize for discovering the first known exoplanet in 1995. The planet they found was 51 Pegasi b, a Jupiter-like gas giant some 50 light years away from Earth. Since their discovery, according to the academy, over four thousand other exoplanets have been discovered. Both are professors at the University of Geneva; Queloz is also a professor at the University of Cambridge.

"Both these prizes [...] tell us something essential, something existential about our place in the Universe", said selection committee member Ulf Danielsson. "The first one, tracing the history back to an unknown origin, is so fascinating. The other one tries to answer these questions about: 'are we alone — is there life anywhere else in the Universe?' "

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