Aleksander Wolszczan

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Aleksander Wolszczan
Aleksander Wolszczan (2007).jpg
Aleksander Wolszczan
Born (1946-04-29) 29 April 1946 (age 68)
Szczecinek, Poland
Nationality Polish
Fields Astronomer
Alma mater Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń
Known for Discovery of the first extrasolar planets and pulsar planets
Notable awards Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize (1996)

Aleksander Wolszczan [alɛkˈsandɛr ˈvɔlʂt͡ʂan] ( ) (born 29 April 1946 in Szczecinek, Poland) is a Polish astronomer. He is the co-discoverer of the first extrasolar planets and pulsar planets.

Scientific career[edit]

Aleksander Wolszczan

Wolszczan was educated in Poland (he gained a MSc in 1969 and received his PhD in 1975 at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń). In 1982, he moved to the U.S. to work at Cornell and Princeton universities. Later he became an astronomy professor at Pennsylvania State University, where he currently teaches a "Life in the universe" class. From 1994 to 2008, he was also a professor at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń. He is a member of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Working with Dale Frail, Wolszczan carried out astronomical observations from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico which led them to the discovery of the pulsar PSR B1257+12 in 1990. They showed in 1992 that the pulsar was orbited by two planets. The radii of their orbits are 0.36 and 0.47 AU respectively. This was the first confirmed discovery of planets outside the Solar System (over 1,750 are known today).

In 1996, Wolszczan was awarded the Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize by the American Astronomical Society, and in 2002, he was pictured on a Polish postage stamp.[1]

In 2003 Maciej Konacki and Wolszczan determined the orbital inclinations of the two pulsar planets, showing that the actual masses are approximately 3.9 and 4.3 Earth masses respectively.

In 2008, the "Gazeta Prawna" disclosed that Wolszczan was an informant (codenamed "Lange") for the communist Polish Secret Service from 1973 till 1988, which he confirmed. His subsequent resignation was accepted by the rector of Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń.[2][3][4]

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