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Professor Zvi Maza is the recipient of the Israel Prize in the field of physics research for 2024 - an overview of his main discoveries

Professor Maza studied planets outside the solar system and even developed a method for discovering planets that allows expanding the search circle

Prof. Zvi Maza, photo: Tel Aviv University
Prof. Zvi Maza, photo: Tel Aviv University

The Minister of Education, Yoav Kish, announced that Professor Zvi Maza, a researcher at Tel Aviv University in the field of theoretical astrophysics and observational astronomy, is the recipient of the Israel Prize in the field of physics research for the year 2024.

Prof. Maza has been researching planets outside the solar system since 1984, when the idea of ​​looking for extrasolar planets was then considered esoteric, even bordering on science fiction. He was one of the few who appreciated that it was possible that giant planets could be found very close to their parent stars. Throughout his research career, Zvi Maza led the development of computational methods and advanced research tools for double stars and extrasolar planets.

The award committee stated in its reasoning that Professor Maza's methodological synthesis led to the discovery of extrasolar planets while developing flattening analysis, which became standard methods in the field. The committee also stated in its reasoning that these achievements give Professor Maza worldwide recognition as one of the founding fathers of the field of extrasolar planets, which is at the forefront of global research in astrophysics.

Zvi Maza is a professor of physics and astronomy at Tel Aviv University, the trustee of the Oren Family Chair in Experimental Physics. Weizmann Prize laureate for science.

Prof. Maza initiated the search that led in 1989 to the discovery of the candidate to be the first planet discovered outside the solar system, back at a time when everyone believed that it was impossible to discover planets outside the solar system. Since then he has participated in the discoveries of dozens of planets, mainly with the help of spacecraft that move above the atmosphere to measure the intensity of starlight accurately.

Maza is leading an international effort to discover giant planets and brown dwarfs using the light curves obtained by spacecraft with the help of a search algorithm, BEER, which looks for the relativistic directionality effect with which the first planet has already been found. The research is financed by a prestigious grant from the European Research Authority ERC in the amount approaching two million euros.

Prof. Zvi Maza was involved in a number of major discoveries in the field of planets outside the solar system:

  1. The Tripartite Planetary Discovery Project - In collaboration with Tel Aviv University and the Gaia and Tess spacecraft, Maza helped enable the quick and efficient discovery of new planets.
  2. Discovering a planet using a new method - The use of Einstein's theory of relativity allowed Maza and his team to discover a planet outside the solar system in 2013.
  3. For the first time, two new planets orbiting a double sun have been discovered - This discovery, made in 2012, contributed important information to understanding the dynamics of double systems and their effect on the stability of planetary orbits.
  4. Discoveries of seven new planets by the Coro spacecraft (CoRoT) – This 2010 discovery included the discovery of multiple planets in one system, offering insights into the diversity of planetary systems in space.
  5. An Earth-like planet has been discovered - This discovery, in which an Israeli team participated, opened up the possibility of studying planets that may support life, due to the similarity in conditions to those of the Earth, especially the existence of water in a liquid state and a magnetic field.
  6. Prof. Maza and the fight for Pluto's position - In 2006, during discussions about Pluto's status as a planet, Maza was involved in the investigations and discussions that preceded the decision to make Pluto a "dwarf planet". He discusses the possible changes in definitions and their impact on our scientific understanding of the solar system.
  7. First accurate measurement of the mass of a planet – In 2002, Maza and his team participated in the first accurate measurement of the mass of a planet in another solar system. This discovery helped researchers better understand the properties of planets that are not part of our solar system, and deepen the knowledge about the evolution of planetary systems.

Links to all the news can be found here

Each of these discoveries and the research led by Maza contributed greatly to the expansion of knowledge in the scientific community and to a deeper understanding of the forces and processes that affect the solar system and other planetary systems in the universe.

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