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A Nobel Exoplanet Faux Pas

30 Oct 2019, 13:42 UTC
A Nobel Exoplanet Faux Pas
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This is the Doppler velocity curve displayed by the Nobel Committee to illustrate what Mayor and Queloz had accomplished in 1995. But actually, the graph shows the curve from the Lick Observatory in California that an American team had produced to confirm the initial finding. Such was the interweaving of the work of the Swiss and the American teams searching for the first exoplanet orbiting a sun-like star. (Image courtesy of Geoff Marcy and Paul Butler, San Francisco State University)
Given the complex history of the discovery and announcement in 1995 of the first exoplanet that orbits a sun-like star, it is perhaps no surprise that errors might sneak into the retelling. Two main groups were racing to be first, and for a variety of reasons the discovery ended up being confirmed before it was formally announced.
A confusing situation prone to mistakes if all involved aren’t entirely conversant with the details. But an error — tantamount to scientific plagiarism — by the Nobel Committee? That is a surprise.
The faux pas occurred at the announcement on October 8 that Michel Mayor of the University of Geneva and Didier Queloz of the the University of Cambridge had won the Nobel ...

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