Michel G. Mayor

University of Geneva

Primary Section: 12, Astronomy
Membership Type:
International Member (elected 2010)

Research Interests

As an astrophysicist, my most important contribution has been the detection of the first extrasolar planet orbiting a solar-type star, 51 Pegasi. The orbital parameters of that jovian planet were quite unexpected, with its orbital period as short as 4 days. It raised the attention on the crucial importance of orbital migration of planets. This physical process is of importance to understand the amazing diversity of planetary systems. During the last 40 years, I have been interested in the development of spectrographs optimised to get precise and accurate measurements of stellar velocities. The last one of these instruments, the HARPS spectrograph, is precise enough to allow the discovery of a new, very rich population of low mass planets ontight orbits and allowed my collaborators and I to discover planets with masses close to that of the Earth's. More recently we have also been involved in the follow-up with Doppler measurements of transiting planet candidates. However, the focus of my interest remains the detection of planets in the so-called habitable zone of their host star in order to prepare a list of targets for future experiments aimed at searching and detecting signatures of life outside our Solar System.

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