In DepthPhysics

Nobel honors pioneers in cosmology and exoplanets

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Science  11 Oct 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6462, pp. 166
DOI: 10.1126/science.366.6462.166

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Summary

This year's Nobel Prize in Physics honors the human desire to understand both the fundamental nature of the universe and its details. Half of the $900,000 prize goes to Princeton University cosmologist James Peebles, for laying the foundations of modern-day cosmology. The other half is split between astronomers Michel Mayor of the University of Geneva in Switzerland and Didier Queloz, now at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, who discovered the first planet around another sunlike star. In 1965, Peebles predicted that the big bang should have left an afterglow. That cosmic microwave background (CMB) was discovered the same year. Peebles also deduced that tiny fluctuations in the temperature of the CMB across the sky could be used determine the amounts of ordinary matter, dark matter, and space-stretching dark energy that make up the universe. Mayor and Queloz changed astronomy in a stroke in 1995, when they found a gas giant half the mass of Jupiter in an orbit much tighter than Mercury's. Since then the floodgates of discovery have opened and astronomers have found thousands more exoplanets of every description.

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