Tartu Observatory shares research topics with the Winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics

This year’s Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to James Peebles, Michel G. E. Mayor and Didier Queloz, whose work in cosmology and stellar physics has also built the foundation for a large part of the University of Tartu Tartu Observatory’s research.

Princeton University professor emeritus James Peebles was assigned half of the award for his discoveries in physical cosmology. He created a threoretical model of the Universe that enabled to describe the Universe as a whole, starting from the Big Bang and ending with modern times.
Senior Research Fellow at Tartu Observatory, Member of the Estonian Academy of Sciences Enn Saar said that Peebles has developed the most important mathematical tools for researching the structure of the Universe. “Without those tools no cosmology research would be done in Tõravere,” Saar stated.

Planets outside the Solar System

The second part of the prize was awarded to  Michel G. E. Mayor and Didier Queloz. In 1995, Mayor and Queloz discovered the first exoplanet orbiting a Sun-like star. The planet, located in the constellation of Pegasus, was named 51 Pegasi b. The planet is about the size of Jupiter.

The University of Tartu Tartu Observatory studies exoplanets within the ARIEL mission. ARIEL is an Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey: a space telescope that is created for researching exoplanets' chemical composition, especially their atmosphere, in different wavelength ranges. The goal of the mission is to better understand the formation of planetary systems.

Consortium Member of the ARIEL mission, Senior Research Fellow at the observatory Mihkel Pajusalu said that in the mission, Estonians will most probably characterize stars and determine the orbital parametres of the exoplanets surrounding the stars. “It is important for predicting the exact time when the planet is going to be between ARIEL and the star.”

Developers of the Comet Interceptor

The researchers of the observatory study celestial bodies untouched by our Solar System within the Comet Interceptor mission as well. "The objective of Comet Inerceptor is to fly by a comet that has not been influenced by the formation period of the Solar System, or – if we were to be especially lucky – a comet or asteroid from another planetary system," Pajusalu said. The latter have been found before, but finding the ones that match the parametres of the mission among them is a bit more complicated, Pajusalu stated. In cooperation with Finnish researchers, Estonians are developing the camera for capturing an image as closely as possible of the comet or object from another planetary system.

Within the next months, Tartu observatory will start researching the birth of planets and the Solar System. This will also increase the contribution in the ARIEL and Comet Interception missions.

To explain the achievements of the Nobel Prize winners and the observatory’s research in connection to them even more, Tartu Observatory will hold a seminar on Thursday, October 17 at 4.15 p.m. at the University of Tartu Physicum (W. Ostwaldi 1, 50411 Tartu). There will be presentations in both English and Estonian.