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: Space station's 3-D printer pops out first creation

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

NASA's Webb Telescope mirror tripod in action (Video)

14 minutes ago

Setting up NASA's James Webb Space Telescope's secondary mirror in space will require special arms that resemble a tripod. NASA recently demonstrated that test in a NASA cleanroom and it was documented in ...

Iridium flares captured in real time by astrophotographer

8 hours ago

There are so many fun sights to see in the sky that are pure astronomical magic. And then there are the spectacular human-created sights. One of those sights is watching satellites from the Iridium constellation ...

Is Phobos doomed?

9 hours ago

"All these worlds are yours except Europa, attempt no landing there."

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.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.