Who’s won the Nobel Prize in Physics this year?

Written by Francesca Lake (Editor-in-Chief)

2019’s Nobel Prize in Physics has been jointly awarded for research that has rocketed forward our understanding of the universe.

The prize was awarded to James Peebles (Princeton University; NJ, USA), Michael Mayor (University of Geneva; Switzerland) and Didier Queloz (Cavendish Laboratory; Cambridge, UK and University of Geneva) for furthering our understanding of the structure and history of the universe.

Peebles wins the award for “theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology,” and Mayor and Queloz for “the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star.”

Peebles’ decades of theoretical research transformed cosmology and led to the revelation that we only know approximately 5% of our universe’s content – the stars, planets and people. The remaining 95% comprises unknown dark matter and energy. He was also one of the researchers who predicted cosmic microwave background radiation, and thus the ‘afterglow’ of the Big Bang. Furthermore, he has contributed to our understanding of the formation of galaxies from density fluctuations in the early universe.

Mayor and Queloz looked for unknown worlds in our galaxy, discovering the first planet outside our solar system in 1995, the gaseous 51 Pegasi b. The planet is 50 light-years away and was the first exoplanet to be discovered around a star similar to our own Sun. To find it they used a technique that measures how a star wobbles when it is affected by the orbiting planet’s gravity.

The Nobel Prize in Physics is presented by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Since it was first awarded in 1901, it has recognized 213 laureates. Last year’s Nobel Prize was awarded for ground-breaking inventions in the field of laser physics. Read more about last year’s winners in our roundup of the 2018 Nobel Prize awardees.

The 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded, and the Chemistry prize will be announced soon, so watch this space for an announcement.

Our congratulations go to the winners!