Nobel Physics Prize awarded to three scientists for work on the cosmos

James Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz were awarded the Nobel Physics Prize for 2019.


Following the announcement of the Nobel Medicine Prize that was shared between three people including US researchers William Kaelin and Gregg Semenza, and Britain's Peter Ratcliffe. Today, the Nobel Physics Prize was announced and awarded to three people – Canadian-American cosmologist James Peebles and two Swiss scientists Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz – for their work in understanding how the universe evolved since the Big Bang and the discovery of the first known planet outside our solar system.

Nobel Physics Prize awarded to three scientists for work on the cosmos

Nobel Prize in Physics 2019 awarded to James Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz. Image: Twitter/NobelPrize.

Canadian-born James Peebles, 84, of Princeton University, was credited for “theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology” and Switzerland’s Michel Mayor, 77, and Didier Queloz, 53, each from the University of Geneva, were honored for discovering “an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star,” said Prof. Goran Hansson, secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Peebles, hailed as one of the most influential cosmologists of his time, will collect one half of the 9-million kronor ($918,000) cash award, and the Swiss men will share the other half.

The Nobel committee said Peebles’ theoretical framework about the cosmos — and its billions of galaxies and galaxy clusters — amounted to “the foundation of our modern understanding of the universe’s history, from the Big Bang to the present day.”

His work set the stage for a “transformation” of cosmology over the last half-century, using theoretical tools and calculations that helped interpret traces from the infancy of the universe, the committee said. Peebles is the Albert Einstein Professor of Science at Princeton.

Mayor and Queloz were credited having “started a revolution in astronomy” notably with the discovery of exoplanet 51 Pegasi B, a gaseous ball comparable with Jupiter, in 1995 — a time when, as Mayor recalled — that “no one knew whether exoplanets existed or not.”

An exoplanet is a planet outside the solar system.

“Prestigious astronomers had been searching for them for years, in vain!” Mayor quipped.

More than 4,000 exoplanets have since been found in the Milky Way since then, and “Strange new worlds are still being discovered, with an incredible wealth of sizes, forms, and orbits,” the committee said.

The University of Geneva quoted Mayor and Queloz as saying it was “simply extraordinary” that they won the prize for “the most exciting” discovery of their careers.

The cash prize comes with a gold medal and a diploma that are received at an elegant ceremony in Stockholm on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of prize founder Alfred Nobel in 1896, together with five other Nobel winners. The sixth one, the peace prize, is handed out in Oslo, Norway on the same day.

You can watch the full livestream of the Nobel Physics Prize announcement below:

With inputs from The Associated Press.

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