Swiss duo win award for spotting distant planets

Jan 24, 2012
A starfield in space. A pair of Swiss astrophysicists who were the first to discover a planet from beyond our solar system were honoured Tuesday with a major Spanish science award.

A pair of Swiss astrophysicists who were the first to discover a planet from beyond our solar system were honoured Tuesday with a major Spanish science award.

Michel Mayor, 70, and Didier Queloz, 45, took the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award for basic sciences for their "pathbreaking development" of new techniques that allow us to peer at planets revolving around stars.

The two scientists invented a technique known as radial velocity to spot planets moving around sun-like stars. It works by detecting changes in the star's light caused by the of a planet.

This led to the discovery in 1995 of a giant planet, baptised 51 Pegasi b, "which spawned a revolution in astronomy," said the international jury that conferred the 400,000-euro ($519,000) award.

Today there are more than 500 so-called .

"At that time there were very few people doing this, it was a kind of bizarre, weird project," Queloz said.

"We had built this really precise machine and thought it was going to take years to detect a planet. Then, suddenly, after a couple of months there was the first signal," he said in a BBVA Foundation statement.

Mayor said he believed the work was a recognition for the duo's nearly 20 years of "game-changing" work.

Explore further: Bright points in Sun's atmosphere mark patterns deep in its interior

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

COROT and the new chapter of planetary searches

Nov 14, 2006

The launch of COROT on 21 December 2006 is a long awaited event in the quest to find planets beyond our Solar System. Searching from above the Earth's atmosphere, COROT – the CNES project with ESA participation ...

Scientists discover a nearly Earth-sized planet (Update)

Apr 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Exoplanet researcher Michel Mayor announces the discovery of the lightest exoplanet found so far. The planet, "e," in the system Gliese 581, is only about twice the mass of our Earth. The ...

50 new exoplanets discovered by HARPS

Sep 12, 2011

Astronomers using ESO's world-leading exoplanet hunter HARPS have today announced a rich haul of more than 50 new exoplanets, including 16 super-Earths, one of which orbits at the edge of the habitable zone ...

How to hunt for exoplanets

Mar 02, 2010

A new report launched by the Institute of Physics (IOP) Exoplanets - The search for planets beyond our solar system explains how new technological advances have seen the discovery of more than 400 exoplanets to date, a number ...

Recommended for you

Astronauts to reveal sobering data on asteroid impacts

14 hours ago

This Earth Day, Tuesday, April 22, three former NASA astronauts will present new evidence that our planet has experienced many more large-scale asteroid impacts over the past decade than previously thought… ...

Rosetta instrument commissioning continues

14 hours ago

We're now in week four of six dedicated to commissioning Rosetta's science instruments after the long hibernation period, with the majority now having completed at least a first initial switch on.

Astronaut salary

15 hours ago

Talk about a high-flying career! Being a government astronaut means you have the chance to go into space and take part in some neat projects—such as going on spacewalks, moving robotic arms and doing science ...

Red moon at night; stargazer's delight

Apr 16, 2014

Monday night's lunar eclipse proved just as delightful as expected to those able to view it. On the East Coast, cloudy skies may have gotten in the way, but at the National Science Foundation's National Optical ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jsdarkdestruction
not rated yet Jan 25, 2012
congratulations and thanks for the contributions you've made. Well done, gentlemen.

More news stories

Cosmologists weigh cosmic filaments and voids

(Phys.org) —Cosmologists have established that much of the stuff of the universe is made of dark matter, a mysterious, invisible substance that can't be directly detected but which exerts a gravitational ...

Hubble image: A cross-section of the universe

An image of a galaxy cluster taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope gives a remarkable cross-section of the Universe, showing objects at different distances and stages in cosmic history. They range ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Chronic inflammation linked to 'high-grade' prostate cancer

Men who show signs of chronic inflammation in non-cancerous prostate tissue may have nearly twice the risk of actually having prostate cancer than those with no inflammation, according to results of a new study led by researchers ...