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Astronomy Swiss stargazers win Wolf prize for exoplanet research

The European Southern Observatory at La Silla in Chile, with the Milky Way in the background

(Keystone)

Swiss scientists Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz have been awarded Israel’s prestigious Wolf prize for physics for their research into exoplanets. They are among eight laureates this year from the United States, Britain and Switzerland.

Professor Mayor, from the University of Geneva and the University of Cambridge in Britain, and Professor Queloz, from the University of Geneva, were awarded the physics prize for their discovery of an extrasolar planet, or exoplanet, orbiting around a star similar to the sun.

Since the 1995 discovery of 51 Pegasi b by Michel Mayor and Didier Quéloz, around 2,000 exoplanets have been found, including 250 by the Swiss team. The two astrophysicists have also helped contribute towards the creation of instruments to help detect exoplanets, such as the HARPS (High Accurate Radial velocity Planet Searcher) spectrograph.

The Wolf prize winners in the fields of chemistry, mathematics, physics, medicine and the arts were announced on Tuesday in a ceremony at the Land of Israel Museum in Tel Aviv.

Since 1978, the world-renowned prize has been awarded annually to specialists in the sciences and arts, and is considered second in importance to the Nobel prize. This year, five $100,000 prizes will be divided between the eight winners.

The prizes will be awarded at a state ceremony at the Knesset, attended by President Reuven Rivlin, in June.

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