Nobel Prize in Physics Awarded for Studies of Earth’s Place in the Universe

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Nobel Prize in Physics Awarded for Studies of Earth’s Place in the Universe

“I really panicked at that time,” Dr. Queloz said. “I didn’t talk to Michel at all.”

Almost six months later, Dr. Queloz was convinced his data was real, and he sent a fax to Dr. Mayor saying he thought he might have discovered a planet. “Michel had this very nice answer,” Dr. Queloz said. “He said, ‘Yes, maybe.’”

Years later, Dr. Mayor admitted that he did not believe the data. “He just wanted to be nice with me,” Dr. Queloz said. But when they made more observations, the same pattern continued.

On Oct. 6, 1995, they announced their discovery.

Although this broiling planet was not habitable, it pointed to how astronomers could now study planetary systems that could be similar to our own.

“Completely transformative,” Dr. Fischer said of the discovery. “We are the middle of a scientific revolution that people won’t appreciate until a hundred years go by.”

More than 4,000 exoplanets have been discovered in our Milky Way galaxy since Dr. Mayor and Dr. Queloz announced their results, including some that may be habitable. More and more are being spotted with space telescopes like TESS, launched by NASA last year.

And it turns out that large planets orbiting so close to their stars are not unusual.

“It’s really the science at its best,” Dr. Queloz said. “The data alone talking and telling you a story, which is different from the story that people have built up by studying the solar system.”

The prize last year went to Arthur Ashkin of the United States, Gérard Mourou of France and Donna Strickland of Canada for their work with lasers and microscopy, developing tools such as optical tweezers and chirped pulse amplification.

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