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expert reaction to Physics Nobel Prize

The 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics has been won buy James Peebles (Princeton University, USA), Didier Queloz (University of Geneva, Switzerland, University of Cambridge, UK) and Michel Mayor (University of Geneva, Switzerland) for contributions to cosmology.

This Roundup of comments accompanied an SMC Briefing.


STFC Executive Chair Professor Mark Thomson said:

“On behalf of STFC I would like to warmly congratulate Professor Didier Queloz, Professor Michel Mayor and Professor James Peebles on being awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics. STFC has supported the hunt for exoplanets for many years, and it is incredibly pleasing to see this exciting area of astronomy recognised for the breakthroughs that have been achieved in just the last 30 years. The work of Professor Queloz and Professor Mayor paved the way for the new generation of astronomers to join this growing field – building on their initial discovery of the first Earth-like planet in 1995, to where we are today with over 4,000 known exoplanets. STFC continues to support Professor Queloz in his ground-breaking work, and we look forward with anticipation to new discoveries in this incredibly exciting field of astronomy.”


UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive Professor Sir Mark Walport said:

“Many congratulations to Didier Queloz, alongside James Peebles and Michel Mayor, for the award of the Nobel Prize for contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the universe and Earth’s place in the cosmos.

“Professor Queloz and Professor Mayor opened the field for exoplanetary research, which has captured the imagination of the astronomical community and led to the discovery of many more Earth-like planets. UKRI supports Professor Queloz’s continuing work in this field, based at the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge.

“Professor Queloz is also helping to support the next generation of research leaders through his role on the panel for UKRI’s Future Leaders Fellowships.”


Dr David Clements, Astrophysicist at Imperial College London, said:

“Fantastic news. Jim Peebles has led the way in making cosmology a quantitative science that can be tested with observations, while the discovery of exoplanets has changed our perspective on our place in the universe.”


Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge said:

“I am delighted to hear that Professor Didier Queloz has been awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics. Didier’s discovery of planets beyond our solar system has ushered in a revolutionary new era for cosmology. This work represents an extraordinary scientific achievement but also offers humanity so much inspiration – the chance to imagine such distant and different, or perhaps similar, worlds.

“It gives me tremendous pleasure, on behalf of our community, to congratulate the University of Cambridge’s latest Nobel Prize winner.”


Prof Martin Rees, University of Cambridge, said:

“Jim Peebles played a key role back in 1965 in appreciating and interpreting the ‘cosmic microwave background’ radiation – the ‘afterglow of creation’.  He has been the most influential and respected leader of empirical cosmology with a sustained record of achievement spanning half a century.

“The study of exoplanets is perhaps the most vibrant field of astronomy. We now know that most stars are orbited by retinues of planets; there may be a billion planets in our galaxy resembling the Earth (similar in size and at a distance from their parent star where liquid water can exist). This takes us a step towards the fascinating question of detecting evidence for life on the nearest of these exoplanets. Queloz and Mayor not only discovered the first planet orbiting an ordinary star. The have also been among the leaders in the ongoing research that has led to the discovery of many thousands of other planetary systems, exhibiting an unexpected variety.

“These awards seem to show, incidentally, a welcome broadening of the Nobel criteria. In the past, astronomy has been included primarily when the discovery involves some new physics (neutron stars, gravitational waves, vacuum energy, etc). But this award highlights astronomy as also the grandest of the environmental sciences. And the award to Peebles will be welcomed by his friends and colleagues as recognition of a lifetime of sustained contributions and insights by an acknowledged intellectual leader, rather than a ‘one off’ achievement.”


Declared interests

None asked for.

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