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UH Astronomer John Tonry Shares $3 Million Breakthrough Prize

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November 14, 2014


Dr. John Tonry
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High-Resolution Photo:

John Tonry


John Tonry.
IfA photo by K. Teramura

UH astronomer John Tonry has been named a recipient of the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for the discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, rather than slowing as had been long assumed. He shares the award with the other members of the High-Redshift Supernova Search Team and with members of the Supernova Cosmology Project.

In all, 50 astronomers played a role in the research, and each will get a piece of the $3 million prize, which will be split between two research teams. This work had previously won the 2006 Shaw Prize in astronomy and the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics, but those prizes went only to the leaders of the two research teams, Saul Perlmutter, Adam Riess and Brian Schmidt.

After learning of the prize, Tonry said, "While it was a thrill to be part of a team whose work won a Nobel Prize and to travel to Sweden for the ceremony, being recognized directly by the Breakthrough Prize is particularly gratifying."

The goal of the annual Breakthrough Prizes, given in fundamental physics, life sciences and mathematics, is to celebrate scientists and generate excitement about the pursuit of science as a career. The prizes are sponsored by Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife, Anne Wojcicki, a founder of the genetics company 23andMe; Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma and his wife, Cathy Zhang; Russian entrepreneur and venture capitalist Yuri Milner and his wife, Julia; and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.

The second annual Breakthrough Prize ceremony was held in Silicon Valley and will be broadcast by the Discovery Channel at 4 p.m. Hawaii time on Saturday, November 15.

More information about John Tonry's role in the discovery

Founded in 1967, the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa conducts research into galaxies, cosmology, stars, planets, and the sun. Its faculty and staff are also involved in astronomy education, deep space missions, and in the development and management of the observatories on Haleakala and Maunakea. The Institute operates facilities on the islands of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii.