Canadian-American among winners of Nobel Prize for work to understand cosmos

Other two winners are Michel Mayo and Didier Queloz of the University of Geneva in Switzerland

In this Thursday, Aug. 11, 2005 file photo Swiss Astronomers Michel Mayor, right, and Didier Queloz, left, pose for the photographer at the Astronomical Observatory of the University of Geneva. (Laurent Gillieron, Keystone via AP)

A Canadian-American cosmologist and two Swiss scientists won this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday for exploring the evolution of the universe and discovering a new kind of planet, with implications for that nagging question: Does life exist only on Earth?

Canadian-born James Peebles, 84, an emeritus professor at Princeton University, won for his theoretical discoveries in cosmology. Swiss star-gazers Michel Mayor, 77, and Didier Queloz, 53, both of the University of Geneva, were honoured for finding an exoplanet — a planet outside our solar system — that orbits a sun-like star, the Nobel committee said.

“This year’s Nobel laureates in physics have painted a picture of the universe far stranger and more wonderful than we ever could have imagined,” said Ulf Danielsson of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which selected the laureates. “Our view of our place in the universe will never be the same again.”

Peebles, hailed as one of the most influential cosmologists of his time who realized the importance of the cosmic radiation background born of the Big Bang, will collect one half of the 9-million kronor ($918,000) cash award. Mayor, who is an astrophysicist, and Queloz, an astronomer who is also at the University of Cambridge in Britain, will share the other half.

The Nobel committee said Peebles’ theoretical framework about the cosmos — and its billions of galaxies and galaxy clusters — amounted to “the foundation of our modern understanding of the universe’s history, from the Big Bang to the present day.”

His work, which began in the mid-1960s, set the stage for a “transformation” of cosmology over the last half-century, using theoretical tools and calculations that helped interpret traces from the infancy of the universe, the committee said.

A clearly delighted Peebles giggled repeatedly during a phone interview with The Associated Press, recalling how he answered a 5:30 a.m. phone call from Stockholm thinking that “it’s either something very wonderful or it’s something horrible.”

He said he looked forward to travelling to the Swedish capital with his wife and children.

“I’ve always loved Bob Dylan. I can’t forgive him for not showing up to the scene of his Nobel prize,” he said, referring to the singer-songwriter’s refusal to participate in Nobel ceremonies after he won the 2016 literature prize.

Mayor and Queloz were credited with having “started a revolution in astronomy” notably with the discovery of exoplanet 51 Pegasi B, a gaseous ball comparable with Jupiter, in 1995 — a time when, as Mayor recalled — that “no one knew whether exoplanets existed or not.”

The committee said more than 4,000 exoplanets have since been found in the Milky Way since then.

READ MORE: Canadian physicist who won 2018 Nobel Prize touts science for the sake of science

The cash prize comes with a gold medal and a diploma that are received at an elegant ceremony in Stockholm on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of prize founder Alfred Nobel in 1896, together with five other Nobel winners. The sixth one, the peace prize, is handed out in Oslo, Norway on the same day.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Goran K Hansson, centre, Secretary General of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and academy members Mats Larsson, left, and Ulf Danielsson, announce the winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics, during news conference at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, Sweden, on Tuesday Oct. 8, 2019. (Claudio Bresciani / TT via AP)

Just Posted

PET CARE: Pets part of domestic violence link

During Purple Light Nights against domestic violence, columnist Nicolette Joosting talks about pets

Control of Parliament could rest on a handful of ridings – including Agassiz and Harrison’s

UFV political science professor says Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon result could play key role

Drivers warn of slippery conditions on the Coquihalla

Snow is falling at the Summit of the Coquihalla

Three-hour parking coming to Agassiz’s Pioneer Avenue

The three-hour parking spots will be along Pioneer Park in the downtown area

Chilliwack man pleads guilty in crash that killed pregnant woman

Frank Tessman charged under Motor Vehicle Act for accident that killed Kelowna school teacher

VIDEO: Agassiz lights candles in memory of missing, murdered Indigenous women

The Sisters in Spirit vigil took place at the Agassiz United Church

Jack’s Devils beat Quinn’s Canucks 1-0 in NHL brother battle

New Jersey youngster scores first career goal against Vancouver

Two charged after owner’s wild ride through Kamloops in his stolen truck

Crystal Rae Dorrington, 37, and Derrick Ronald Pearson, 32, facing multiple charges

Kamloops Blazers blank Vancouver Giants

A loss on the road for G-men

Man found dead inside Richmond business, IHIT investigating

Police believe the incident was not random

Judge orders credit union’s bank records for Kelowna social worker facing theft allegations

The man is accused of negligence, breach of contract, fraud and a conspiracy with Interior Savings

Leaders pour it on with rallies, boosts for candidates as campaign reaches peak

The federal election campaign has reached a crescendo

Allegations of racism lead to ministry investigation at Vancouver private school

St. George’s School was contacted over what the school describes as ‘deeply offensive behaviour online’

Not a political question: Thunberg calls for climate action in Alberta

Edmonton police estimated the size of the crowd at about 4,000

Most Read