The Accelerating Universe
4 December 2012
The short answer is that John Tonry might save the planet some day. Not in any spiritual sense. He just might save us from an interstellar rendezvous with an asteroid. The astrophysicist became interested in outer space as a kid obsessively tracking Mars through his telescope. These days he looks through the lens of a 1.4 billion pixel camera, which Tonry himself designed and built at the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy, where he’s also a professor. Such heavy rigging is standard issue for this scientist who helped discover the fact that the universe is accelerating (rapidly, it turns out, and contrary to Einstein’s theories), a revelation for which he was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics. When we asked him what’s up next, he says: “The most visionary thing I'm up to is requesting funding from NASA to build a new survey system called ATLAS [which] will image the entire sky twice a night at a million times the sensitivity of the eye.” This is the part about John saving the planet – if an asteroid is on a collision course with Earth, ATLAS helps determine its time of impact and location so people can be evacuated early enough. Don’t head for the bunker just yet ¬though – most asteroids that make it to terra firma are about the size of a golf ball.
Learn more about John Tonry HERE.
Editorial Lead by Kitty Bolhoefer / Filming & Photos by Fridolin Schöpper / Editing by Konterfei / Sound by James De Mello / Music by Bunnystripes