Professor Didier Queloz, University of Cambridge
Until recently, the solar system provided the only basis for our knowledge of planets and life in the Universe. In 1995 Didier Queloz and Michel Mayor dramatically changed this view with their discovery of the first giant planet outside our solar system. This spawned a revolution in astronomy, both in terms of new instrumentation and in our understanding of planet formation and evolution. Planets outside our solar system, orbiting other stars, are called exoplanets. Thousands of exoplanets have been identified over the last three decades, ranging from large planets like Jupiter to smaller denser objects like the Earth. The diversity and prolific quantity of these discoveries has revolutionised our understanding of the nature and formation of planets, opening up a surprising new perspective on the possible rarity of planetary systems similar to our own. It has also raised exciting prospects for the potential to probe planetary atmospheres for traces of life.
Didier Queloz is Professor of Physics at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge and Professor of Astronomy at the University of Geneva. His research focuses on the detection and measurement of exoplanet systems, aiming to retrieve information about their physical structure and to better understand their formation and evolution, by comparison with our solar system. More recently he has worked on the detection of Earth-like planets and life in the Universe. In 2019 he received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his research and discoveries. At Cambridge he leads a research program with the goal of making further progress in our understanding of the formation, structure, and habitability of exoplanets in the Universe, as well as to promote and share the excitement of this work with the public.