Cosmology and Exoplanets: Unpacking the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics
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Cosmology studies the universe at the largest scales, applying the laws of physics over billions of light years and all the way back to the universe's infancy. In dozens of groundbreaking publications, Jim Peebles laid the foundations for theoretical cosmology, painting a picture of how matter evolves from the moments after the Big Bang into a cosmic web of dark matter and galaxies. His work set the stage for current research that routinely uses supercomputer simulations to study the astrophysics of galaxies. Closer to home, people have speculated the existence of planets outside of our own solar system for centuries. However, there was no way of knowing whether they exist and how common they are. In 1995, the first discovery of an extrasolar planet, or exoplanet, orbiting a Sun-like star was made by Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz, who detected the signatures of the planet 51 Pegasi b as it pulls its host star. This discovery marked a breakthrough in astrophysics and led to various fields of interests, including the formation and habitability of exoplanets.