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: China to send orbiter to moon and back

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

Historical comet-landing site is looking for a name

24 minutes ago

The Rosetta mission reaches a defining moment on Wednesday November 12, when its lander, Philae, is released. After about seven hours of descent, Philae will arrive on the surface of Comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. ...

Image: Siding Spring grazes Mars

1 hour ago

This excellent view of Mars seen together with Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring was captured by Scott Ferguson, Florida, USA, on 19 October 2014 on the morning that the enigmatic object made the closest-known ...

China to send orbiter to moon and back

4 hours ago

China will launch its latest lunar orbiter in the coming days, state media said Wednesday, in its first attempt to send a spacecraft around the moon and back to Earth.

NASA Webb's heart survives deep freeze test

14 hours ago

After 116 days of being subjected to extremely frigid temperatures like that in space, the heart of the James Webb Space Telescope, the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) and its sensitive instruments, ...

Cosmic rays threaten future deep-space astronaut missions

19 hours ago

Crewed missions to Mars remain an essential goal for NASA, but scientists are only now beginning to understand and characterize the radiation hazards that could make such ventures risky, concludes a new paper ...

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.