Nobel Prize in Physics 2019 celebrates Earth's cosmic context
The winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics have been announced. This year the award recognizes three scientists for their "contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the universe and Earth's place in the cosmos.” Specifically, they developed the theoretical framework of the evolution of the universe, and discovered the first exoplanet.
Half of this year’s Prize goes to James Peebles of Princeton University. Peebles was instrumental in predicting, describing and detecting the cosmic microwave background, a field of radiation that was left over after the Big Bang and pervades the universe to this day. This work has shaped our modern understanding of the evolution of the universe.
The other half of the Prize was awarded jointly to Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz, of the University of Geneva. Back in 1995, Mayor and Queloz discovered 51 Pegasi b, the first planet found outside our own solar system. This exoplanet is a gas giant like Jupiter, orbiting a star that’s quite similar to our Sun. The discovery paved the way for further exploration of the cosmos, and since then the tally has grown to well over 4,000 exoplanets.
Together, Peebles, Mayor and Queloz have transformed the field of cosmology over the last 50 years, giving us – as the Academy puts it – “new perspectives on our place in the universe.”
The rest of the 2019 Nobel Prizes are being announced this week. Yesterday the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine went to William Kaelin, Peter Ratcliffe and Gregg Semenza for their work in untangling how cells in the body sense and adapt to different oxygen levels.
The winners of the Nobel Prizes in Chemistry, Literature, Economic Sciences and the Peace Prize are all due to be announced over the next few days.