For their pathbreaking development of new astronomical instruments and experimental techniques that led to the observation of planets outside the solar system. Their discovery of a giant planet orbiting another star in 1995 spawned a revolution in astronomy. Today, more than five hundred exoplanets are known and the first direct measurements of some of their atmospheres have been obtained.
Mayor and Queloz introduced the Doppler technique, which detects the presence of a planet via small periodic shifts of the spectral lines in the light of the star. This is a tell-tale signal for the orbiting of the star and planet around a common center of gravity. Since the beginning, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz have been involved in many of the successful large technical developments in this new field. They invested considerable effort in the development of the precise HARPS (high accuracy radial velocity planet searcher) spectrograph at La Silla, Chile, which has become the world’s leading planet discovery machine.
In addition, in the emerging area of planetary transit detection, their international collaboration with the WASP (wide angle search for planets) team from the UK and participation in the Corot satellite team has doubled the number of known transiting planets and has even led to the detection of a rocky extrasolar planet.