“If we are talking about exoplanets, things should be clear: we will not migrate there,” Nobel laureate Michel Mayor told the AFP. “These planets are much, much too far away. Even in the very optimistic case of a livable planet that is not too far, say a few dozen light years, which is not a lot, it’s in the neighborhood, the time to go there is considerable,” he added. “We are talking about hundreds of millions of days using the means we have available today. We must take care of our planet, it is very beautiful and still absolutely liveable.”
The planet, Mayor and his colleague Didier Queloz discovered, called 51 Pegasi b, would open a new era in humanity’s exploration of our galactic neighborhood. It would be the first in a series of “hot Jupiters” — giant planets in fast, tight orbits — discovered in rapid succession. The rush of new worlds would propel the team into the media spotlight, and forever change our view of the cosmos.
Mayor and his colleague Queloz were on Tuesday awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for their research refining techniques to detect so-called exoplanets.
The 77-year-old said he felt the need to “kill all the statements that say ‘OK, we will go to a liveable planet if one day life is not possible on earth. It’s completely crazy.”
Using custom-made instruments at their observatory in southern France, Mayor and Queloz in October 1995 discovered what had previously only existed in the realm of science fiction—a planet outside Earth’s solar system.
Mayor was a professor at Geneva University and Queloz was his doctorate student, when they made the discovery which started a revolution in astronomy. Since then over 4,000 exoplanets have been found in our home galaxy.
“It was a very old question which was debated by philosophers: are there other worlds in the Universe?,” Mayor said.”We look for planets which are the closest (to us), which could resemble Earth. Together with my colleague we started this search for planets, we showed it was possible to study them.”
Mayor said it was up to the “next generation” to answer the question of whether there is life on other planets. “We don’t know! The only way to do it is to develop techniques that would allow us to detect life at a distance,” he said.
The Daily Galaxy, Jake Burba, via Phys.org
IMage credit: NASA