University of Warsaw Breakthroughs

The University’s teams have acquired recognition of the worldwide academic milieu in many areas of knowledge. Research projects and discoveries by the University’s scholars, in the fields of Natural Sciences as much as in the Humanities and Social Sciences, have won greatest respect.


The following are examples of projects, publications and discoveries by scholars from the University of Warsaw, which were of fundamental importance to the development of their disciplines and were much discussed not in the scientific world.


Cold Terrestrial Planet in a Binary SystemA team of astronomers including scientists from a large-scale sky observation project called Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE) detected a cold, terrestrial planet in a binary-star system using gravitational microlensing. The planet has low mass (2 Earth masses) and lies projected at 0.8 astronomical units (AU) from its host star, similar to the Earth-Sun distance. However, the planet temperature is much lower, T<60 K, because the host star is only 0.10-0.15 solar masses and therefore more than 400 times less luminous than the Sun. The host is itself orbiting a slightly more massive companion with projected separation of 10-15 AU.

A terrestrial planet in a ~1-AU orbit around one member of a ∼15-AU binary , Science 4 July 2014: Vol. 345 no. 6192 pp. 46-49


The first unlooted royal tomb of its kind unearthed in Peru

Discovery of the first unlooted tomb of the Wari civilisation made by the University of Warsaw team in El Castillo de Huarmey in Peru was declared one of the “Top Ten Discoveries of 2013” by the American specialist periodical “Archaeology”. The tomb contained skeletons of several women from the Precolumbian elites and more than 1,300 valuable grave offerings.


Six-year observations of the Milky Way

A team of astronomers including scientists from the international PLANET project as well as a large-scale sky observation project called Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE) conducted at the Astronomical Observatory of the University of Warsaw under guidance of Prof. Andrzej Udalski, presented results of research aimed at estimating the degree of prevalence of extrasolar planetary systems among stars of the Milky Way. Six-year observations of tens of millions of stars with the use of gravitational microlensing indicate that the presence of planets orbiting other stars is a norm.

One or more bound planets per Milky Way star from microlensing observations, Nature, 481,2012, pages 167-169


Unbound planets – scientific hit of the year according to Science

An international team of astronomers discovered a new class of extrasolar planets whose mass is similar to that of Jupiter. Unbound planets are planetary objects detached from their home stars in result of gravitational interactions between planets or neighbouring stars, freely orbiting through the Galaxy. The studies are carried out by scientists from the Astronomical Observatory of the University of Warsaw under the supervision of Prof. Andrzej Udalski, who is in charge of the Optical Gravitation Lensing Experiment (OGLE) – a large-scale sky survey, and astronomers from the Japan/New Zealand Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics (MOA) group. The discovery was recognized by Science weekly as one of the 10 scientific hits of 2011.

Unbound or distant planetary mass population detected by gravitational microlensing, Nature, 473, 2011, pages 349-352


Footprints pull origin of dinosaur stem lineage deep into Early Tsic

Grzegorz Niedźwiedzki, a PhD student from the Faculty of Biology, together with Stephen Brusatte from the American Museum of Natural History, and a British paleontologist, Richard Butler, have discovered that the birth of the dinosaur era, called Mesozoic, took place much earlier than it has been thought. This hypothesis has been put forward on the basis of the traces found in Świętokrzyskie Mountains. They are only 3-4 cm long and have a unique morphology. Three prints of fingers are visible, the other two have been reduced. It is the earliest stage of formation of the dinosaur’s foot. The tracks are quarter billion years old and prove that first ancient dinosaurs appeared on Earth approximately 250 million years ago, 9 million years earlier than it has been thought.

Footprints pull origin and diversification of dinosaur stem lineage deep into Early Tsic, Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 278, 2011, pages 1107-1113


The greatest treasure, which has ever been discovered by archeologists

Archeologists from the University of Warsaw Antiquity of South Eastern Europe Research Centre engaged in excavations in the area of the antique region of Risan (currently Montenegro) have discovered a collection of 4600 coins from III century B.C. All of the coins have been found collected in a single vessel. According to prof. Piotr Dyczek, the center director, this might be the single greatest treasure from this time period, which has ever been discovered by archeologists. The University’s research in Risan is continuing since 2001. Until now, the center’s workers have discovered within the city limits, two building complexes; the so-called “Villa with Meanders” and the “Villa of Hypnos” as well as a fragment of a Roman street.


A finding which shatters the history of evolution

Grzegorz Niedźwiedzki, a Ph.D. student at the Department of Paleobiology and Evolution, Faculty of Biology, University of Warsaw, and Piotr Szrek, Ph.D., from the Polish Geological Institute, have made a breakthrough discovery. The scientists found several dozen tracks left by first four-legged creatures, or tetrapods, being common ancestors of all land vertebrates, including human beings. The tracks date back to 395 million years ago, 18 million years older than the tetrapod fossils known so far. The findings may prove that animals with four walking legs with seven or eight toes went out from the sea onto the land much earlier than previously thought. The discovery fills one of the many gaps in the knowledge of our origin. Owing to this, scientists can move almost 400 million years back in the abyss of time, look closer to the evolutionary pathway of vertebrates and verify the current state of research.

Tetrapod trackways from the early Middle Devonian of Poland, Nature, 463, 2009, pages 43-48

Additional information

Our presence in the world

Our University is present in more than 20 countries in 5 continents through archaeological excavations, ethnography and cultural studies research. Some sites have been the subject of our research even for several decades. The archaeologists who investigate the ancient Egypt have at their disposal the University’s Research Station in Cairo, established in 1959. Polish telescopes operate at the Las Campanas Observatory in the Atacama Desert, Chile, where UW astronomers perform large-scale sky surveys.