Research about reflected light of exoplanet distinguished
2015 December 15

The president of the Lisbon Society of Geography, Prof. Luís Aires-Barros, attributed the Gago Coutinho award 2015 to the coordinator of the Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences, Doctor José Afonso, on behalf of the winners.Location of the star 51 Pegasi, in the constellation Pegasus. It's around this sun-like star that orbits the exoplanet 51 Pegasi b, discovered 20 years ago by Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz.This artist’s view shows the hot Jupiter exoplanet 51 Pegasi b, orbits a star about 50 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Pegasus (The Winged Horse). This was the first exoplanet around a normal star to be found in 1995. Twenty years later this object was also the first exoplanet to be be directly detected spectroscopically in visible light.

The direct detection1 of the optical spectral signature of 51 Pegasi b, by an international team2 led by Jorge Martins from Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço (IA3), was shortlisted as one of the Top Ten Physics Breakthroughs of 2015 byPhysics World magazine, and was awarded the 2015 Gago Coutinho International Award.

The Gago Coutinho award was attributed to Jorge Martins, Nuno Santos and Pedro Figueira (IA & University of Porto), and Cláudio Melo (ESO). Martins, a Ph.D student at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto (FCUP), but currently developing his thesis at ESO’s Santiago (Chile) office , commented: “It is for us a great honor for our research to be distinguished with the Gago Coutinho award, as well as being considered as one of the Top Ten Physics Breakthroughs of 2015”.

The Gago Coutinho International Award in the field of Earth and Space Sciences is attributed every two years by the Lisbon Geography Society. The society, founded in 1875, completes 140 years in 2015. This award, with a monetary value of three thousand euros, distinguishes original research works that contribute to the advancement of knowledge in this scientific field.

About his work, Martins also added that: "The detection of the optical reflected spectral signature of an exoplanet is a huge step towards the characterization of exoplanets, in particular of their atmospheres.”

The results of this research were recently published in the renowned peer-reviewed magazine Astronomy & Astrophysics.


  1. The article “Evidence for spectroscopic direct detection of reflected light from 51 Peg b” (DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201425298) was published in Astronomy & Astrophysics Vol. 576, A134.
  2. The team is: J.H.C.Martins, N. C. Santos, P. Figueira, J. P. Faria, M. Montalto, I. Boisse, D. Ehrenreich, C. Lovis, M. Mayor, C. Melo, F. Pepe, S. G. Sousa, S. Udry and D. Cunha.
  3. The Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço (Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences – IA) is the largest portuguese research unit of space sciences, encompassing most of the field’s national scientific output. It was evaluated as Excellent in the last evaluation from the European Science Foundation (ESF).

Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa Universidade do Porto Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia da Universidade de Coimbra
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia COMPETE 2020 PORTUGAL 2020 União Europeia