Prof. Queloz and Prof. Mayor won both prizes
“for the first discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star”. In October 1995, Mayor and Queloz made the first discovery of a planet orbiting a star other than the Sun (an exoplanet). Using custom-made instruments on the Haute-Provence Observatory in France, the pair detected a tiny wobbling motion of a star 50 light-years away. This wobble is caused by the close orbiting of a gas-giant planet called 51 Pegasi b, which is about half the mass of Jupiter. As well as being the first-ever sighting of an exoplanet, the discovery signalled a major shift in our understanding of planet formation and evolution because the distance between 51 Pegasi b and its Sun-like star is just 5% of the distance between Earth and the Sun. This is very unlike the much larger orbits of gas giants in the Solar System.
This discovery opened the floodgates for subsequent observations revealing an incredible diversity of exoplanets. Today, science recognizes thousands of planets in distant solar systems and other planets are discovered almost every day. Many of the planets discovered so far have been found using the method of Mayor and Queloz. The discovery of Mayor and Queloz not only paved the way for the identification of many planets in other solar systems, but also for a better understanding of the formation of planets and solar systems in general.
The Wolf Foundation congratulates Prof. Michael Mayor & Prof. Didier Queloz for their achievements and for the pioneering and influential work, and is proud to continue recognizing ground-breaking scientists and artists around the world.