John Tonry is an astronomer recognized for his work on cosmology: expansion of the Universe, influence of dark matter, and existence of dark energy. He helped found and built instrumentation for the Pan-STARRS sky survey project, and recently created the ATLAS all-sky project to find dangerous asteroids and delineate the time history of all objects in the sky. Tonry was born in Boston, Massachusetts and grew up in New Hampshire. He graduated from Princeton University with a degree in mathematics and from Harvard University in 1980 with a Ph.D. in physics. After post-doctoral appointments at the Institute for Advanced Study and Caltech, he served on the physics faculty of MIT for 11 years, and then moved to the University of Hawaii where he currently works. His work has been recognized by the Gruber Foundation, a Breakthrough Prize, and the 2011 Nobel Prize was awarded to collaboration spokespersons for the work on dark energy. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

John Tonry is currently interested in the discoveries enabled by nightly, all-sky survey to a faint detection limit. This capability permits detection of dangerous, close-by asteroids, alerts for stars that are approaching explosion, monitoring of the activity of black holes at the centers of galaxies, and measurement of a variety of transients such as supernovae. These latter are of particular interest because their distance can be determined accurately from their luminosity, and then deviations of their velocity with respect to the general expansion of the Universe can be used to measure the distribution of dark matter with unprecedented reliability. An effective, modern survey project is founded on advances in detectors, computer algorithms, and data mining, and an ongoing challenge is to balance research into new techniques while retaining full productivity of the existing system.

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Primary Section

Section 12: Astronomy

Secondary Section

Section 13: Physics