pioneers of an incredible feat: finding planets around distant stars
Michel Mayor (born Vaud 12 January 1942) is a professor in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Geneva.
Together with Didier Queloz in 1995 he discovered the first extrasolar planet, 51 Pegasi B, orbiting a sun-like star, 51 Pegasi.
After studying Physics at the University of Lausanne Mayor obtained his doctorate in Astronomy at the Geneva Observatory in 1971. Among other places, he worked at the observatory at Cambridge, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile and an observatory in Hawaii.
By 1998 he had co-authored more than 200 scientific publications. From 1989 to 1992 he was involved in the scientific research at ESO, from 1988 until 1991 he worked on the study of galactic structure with the International Astronomical Union, and from 1990 until 1993 he was with the Swiss society for astrophysics and astronomy.
Since the discovery of 51 Pegasi B Michel Mayor and his research team have been mainly occupied with the discovery of many additional extrasolar planets.
In August 1998 he was awarded the Swiss Marcel Benoist Prize in recognition of his work and its significance for human life. As of 2003 he was a member of the board of trustees. In 2000 he was awarded the Balzan Prize. In 2004 he was awarded the Einstein Medal. In 2005, he was awarded the Shaw Prize in Astronomy.
In 2003, his latest planet searching instrument, the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher, came online.
Didier Queloz (Italian, born 23 February 1966) is a Geneva-based astronomer with a prolific record in finding extrasolar planets. He is understudy to Michel Mayor.
Didier Queloz was a Ph.D. student at the University of Geneva when he and Michel Mayor discovered the first exoplanet around a main sequence star. Queloz performed an analysis on 51 Pegasi using radial velocity measurements (doppler effect), and was astonished to find a planet with an orbital period of 4.2 days. He had been performing the analysis as an exercise to hone his skills. The planet, 51 Pegasi B, challenged the then accepted views of planetary formation, being a hot jupiter or roaster.