Michel Mayor

Discovery of Extrasolar Planets

Image source: L. Weinstein/Ciel et Espace Photos

Image license: CC BY 4.0

Year of Birth

1942

Nationality

CH

Field of Knowledge

Astro Physics

Michel Gustave Édouard Mayor (French pronunciation: ​[miʃɛl majɔʁ]; born 12 January 1942) is a Swiss astrophysicist and professor emeritus at the University of Geneva’s Department of Astronomy. He formally retired in 2007, but remains active as a researcher at the Observatory of Geneva. He is co-laureate of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics along with Jim Peebles and Didier Queloz, the 2010 Viktor Ambartsumian International Prize, and the winner of the 2015 Kyoto Prize.
Together with Didier Queloz in 1995, he discovered 51 Pegasi b, the first extrasolar planet orbiting a sun-like star, 51 Pegasi. For this achievement, they were awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics “for the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star”. Related to the discovery, Mayor noted that humans will never migrate to such exoplanets since they are “much, much too far away … [and would take] hundreds of millions of days using the means we have available today”. However, due to discoveries by Mayor, searching for extraterrestrial communications from exoplanets may now be a more practical consideration than thought earlier.Mayor holds MS in Physics from the University of Lausanne (1966) and PhD in Astronomy from the Geneva Observatory (1971). His thesis also had an article called “Essay on the kinematical properties of stars in the solar vicinity: possible relation with the galactic spiral structure.” He was a researcher at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge in 1971. Subsequently, he spent sabbatical semesters at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in northern Chile and at the Institute for Astronomy of the University of Hawaii system.

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