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Aleksander Wolszczan

Aleksander Wolszczan
Aleksander Wolszczan
Born (1946-04-29) 29 April 1946
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 (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 1
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • Notes 4
  • External links 5

Scientific career

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 from 1973 till 1988 Wolszczan was an informant (codenamed "Lange") for the Polish Służba Bezpieczeństwa, which he confirmed. His subsequent resignation was accepted by the rector of Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń.[2][3][4]

See also


  • Nature 355(6356):145-7, January 9, 1992.A planetary system around the millisecond pulsar PSR 1257+12.Wolszczan, A., and D.A. Frail.
  • Wolszczan, A. Confirmation of Earth-mass planets orbiting the millisecond pulsar PSR B1257+12. Science 264(5158):538-42, April 22, 1994.
  • Astrophysical Journal, Volume 591, Issue 2, pp. L147-L150, 2003.Masses and Orbital Inclinations of Planets in the PSR B1257+12 SystemKonacki, M. and Wolszczan, A.


  1. ^ "Wolszczan Featured on Millennium Stamp Set with Pope John Paul, Lech Walesa, and Nicolaus Copernicus". Pennsylvania State University web site.  
  2. ^ Rektor UMK przyjął rezygnację prof. Wolszczana
  3. ^ [3]
  4. ^ [4]

External links

  • Earth Sized Planets Confirmed
  • Planet Orbiting a Giant Red Star Discovered with Hobby-Eberly Telescope
  • "Wolszczan Featured on Millennium Stamp Set with Pope John Paul, Lech Walesa, and Nicolaus Copernicus". Pennsylvania State University web site.  
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