The Nobel Prize-winning Swiss astronomer Michel Mayor —- who along with Didier Queloz indirectly detected the first planet circling another sunlike star —- says exoplanet hunters and astrobiologists have a long, hard slog ahead of them if they ever hope to find proof of extraterrestrial life.
Mayor made his remarks to me just last week during a wide-ranging, sit-down interview at the Biennnial European Astrobiology Institute’s scientific conference on Spain’s isle of La Palma.
Mayor, and his former graduate student Queloz, shared the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics for the 1995 discovery of the bizarre, so-called ‘hot Jupiter’ circling 51 Pegasi. The star —- located some 50 light years away in the Northern constellation of Pegasus —- has a gas giant planet about half the mass of Jupiter orbiting its parent star on an insanely, short 4.23-day orbit.
Nearly 30 years later, Mayor is the same soft-spoken and affable astronomer that I remember from our very first January 1996 meeting at Geneva Observatory.
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