On 8 October, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm awarded this year’s Nobel prize in Physics to three scientists for their contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the universe and Earth’s place in the cosmos.
The Physics prize will be shared between James Peebles, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz. James Peebles of Princeton University will receive one half of the award for, ‘theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology’, which formed the basis of our understanding of the universe’s history after the big bang. The other half has been jointly awarded to Michel Mayor of the University of Geneva and Didier Queloz of the Universities of Geneva and Cambridge,for their discovery of ‘an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star.’ Since their first discovery in 1995, more than 4000 exoplanets have been found in the Milky Way, including Earth-like planets.
“When we discovered the first exoplanet, it was pretty obvious that this was something important, even though not everyone believed us at the time. Back then, exoplanet research was a very small field. I think there were about fifty of us and we were seen as weirdos. Now there are probably over a thousand people working in the field. It’s a hot topic at the moment, so I’m really happy that the field of exoplanets has been recognised with a Nobel Prize.” Professor Didier Queloz.
Above: Didier Queloz
Involvement in COST
Didier Queloz was an active member in the COST Action: Origins and evolution of life on Earth in the Universe, which focused on the origin, evolution and distribution of life. The Action Network gathered over 200 researchers from 30 countries.
Through the Action, a new European astrobiology community has been built, which has led to the launch of the European Astrobiology Institute in May 2019. A new generation of astrobiologists have produced data on our origins and the possibility of finding life elsewhere.
The Action most significant success led to the creation of a White paper, ‘Astrobiology and Society in Europe today‘the first international multidisciplinary overview and assessment of astrobiology research’s impact on society.