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University of Hawaii astronomer elected to National Academy of Sciences elite

An astronomer at the University of Hawaii at Manoa has been named one of the National Academy of Sciences’ 84 newly chosen members.

John Tonry, who has been with the UH-Manoa Institute for Astronomy since 1996, joins an elite group of roughly 2,300 exceptional scientists worldwide. National Academy of Sciences members are recognized for their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. It is considered one of the highest honors that a scientist can receive.

Tonry is a professor and expert in developing technologies to survey the sky, including the detection of 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.

With expertise in creating imaging devices, wide-field cameras and cosmology, according to UH-Manoa, Tonry played an integral role in early searches for Type 1a supernovae — exploding white dwarf stars that can be used to measure distances to far-flung galaxies. He also 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 in a news release.

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