The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics 2019 "for its contribution to our understanding of the evolution of the universe and the place of the Earth in the cosmos", with a half to James Peebles of Princeton University, United States, discovered in physical cosmology "and the other half jointly with Michel Mayor of the University of Geneva in Switzerland and Didier Queloz of the University of Geneva in Switzerland and the University from Cambridge in the United Kingdom "for the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar type star. "
New perspectives on our place in the universe
This year's Nobel Prize in Physics rewards a new understanding of the structure and history of the universe and the first discovery of a planet orbiting a solar-type star outside our solar system.
James Peebles' knowledge of physical cosmology has enriched the entire field of research and laid the foundation for the transformation of cosmology over the last fifty years, from speculation to science. Its theoretical framework, developed since the mid-1960s, is the basis of our contemporary ideas about the universe.
The Big Bang model describes the universe from its first moments, almost 14 billion years ago, when it was extremely hot and dense. Since then, the universe has expanded, becoming bigger and colder. Barely 400,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe became transparent and light rays were able to travel in space. Even today, this old radiation is all around us and, encoded in it, many secrets of the universe are hidden. Using his theoretical tools and calculations, James Peebles was able to interpret these traces from the early days of the universe and discover new physical processes.
The results showed us a universe in which only five percent of its content is known, the matter that makes up stars, planets, trees - and ourselves. The rest, 95%, is black matter and black energy unknown. It is a mystery and a challenge for modern physics.
In October 1995, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz announced the first discovery of a planet outside our solar system, an exoplanet, revolving around a solar-type star in our home galaxy, the Milky Way. At the Observatoire de Haute-Provence, in the south of France, they were able to observe, using custom-made instruments, the planet 51 Pegasi b, a gas ball comparable to the largest gas giant in the solar system , Jupiter.
This discovery triggered a revolution in astronomy and more than 4,000 exoplanets have since been discovered in the Milky Way. New strange worlds are yet to be discovered, with an incredible wealth of sizes, shapes and orbits. They challenge our preconceptions about planetary systems and force scientists to reconsider their theories about the physical processes behind the origins of planets. With many projects planned to start looking for exoplanets, we may eventually find an answer to the eternal question of whether another life is out there.
This year's winners have transformed our ideas about the cosmos. While the theoretical discoveries of James Peebles contributed to our understanding of the evolution of the universe after the Big Bang, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz explored our cosmic neighborhoods in search of unknown planets. Their discoveries forever changed our conceptions of the world.
James Peebles, born in 1935 in Winnipeg, Canada. Ph.D. 1962 from Princeton University, USA. Albert Einstein Professor of Science at Princeton University, United States.
Michel Mayor, born in 1942 in Lausanne, Switzerland. PhD 1971 from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. Professor at the University of Geneva, Switzerland.
Didier Queloz, born in 1966. PhD 1995 from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. Professor at the University of Geneva in Switzerland and the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.
Prize amount, SEK 9 million, half of which is awarded to James Peebles and the other half jointly to Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz