UH astronomer John Tonry elected to National Academy of Sciences

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Roy Gal, (808) 956-6235
Associate Astronomer, Outreach Coordinator, Institute for Astronomy
Posted: May 3, 2018

John Tonry in the lab with the Pan-STAARS Gigpixel CCD detector.
John Tonry in the lab with the Pan-STAARS Gigpixel CCD detector.

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa astronomer John Tonry has been named as one of the National Academy of Sciences’ 84 newly chosen members.

Tonry, who has been with the UH Mānoa Institute for Astronomy since 1996, joins an elite group of fewer than 2,400 exceptional scientists worldwide. NAS members are recognized for their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

Tonry is an expert in developing technologies to survey the sky to find moving and variable objects such as exploding stars and asteroids. He is currently spearheading the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) project, a pair of half-meter telescopes that patrol the entire visible sky twice per night to provide warning of an asteroid on its final, impact trajectory.

He has played a fundamental role in developing the Pan-STARRS survey, the world’s leading observatory for detecting comets, asteroids and other variable and moving objects.

“This is well-deserved recognition for John's outstanding contributions to astronomical research, including  the High-z Supernovae Program (accelerating Universe), Pan-STARRS and, most recently ATLAS,” said UH Institute for Astronomy Director Bob McLaren.

Tonry has worked in the development of innovative CCD camera sensors; he co-invented the Orthogonal Transfer CCD, which can shift charge in all four directions. These devices allow astronomers to move the accumulating electrons around on the detector itself to follow objects as they are distorted by the atmosphere, reducing blurring and producing sharper images.

Combining his expertise in creating imaging devices, wide-field cameras and cosmology, Tonry was an integral part of early searches for Type 1a supernovae -- exploding white dwarf stars that can be used to measure distances to far-flung galaxies. Such beacons, seen across the age of the universe, can convey whether the expansion of the universe has changed significantly since the Big Bang.

This work became part of the 1996 announcement that the universe is undergoing an accelerating expansion because of "dark energy," a discovery that was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Throughout his career, Tonry has leveraged a rare combination of scientific and technological insight and innovation to address a diverse array of questions in astronomy. His research has spanned fields from the expansion of the universe, through galaxy distances, to identifying life-threatening asteroids.

Link to Tonryʻs webpage - http://ifa.hawaii.edu/~jt/


For more information, visit: http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/