Nicholas B. Suntzeff
Houston, Texas 2009
November 22, 1952|
San Francisco, CA
|Residence||College Station, Texas|
|Institutions||Texas A&M University,
United States Department of State
|Alma mater||Stanford University
University of California at Santa Cruz
|Doctoral advisor||Robert Kraft|
|Known for||Observational cosmology based on supernovae|
Nicholas B. Suntzeff (Николай Сунцев) (born 1952, San Francisco, CA) is an American University Distinguished Professor and holds the Mitchell/Heep/Munnerlyn Chair of Astronomy in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at Texas A&M University where he is Director of the Astronomy Program. He is an observational astronomer specializing in cosmology, supernovae, stellar populations, and astronomical instrumentation. With Brian Schmidt he founded the High-z Supernova Search Team, which was honored with the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2011 to Schmidt and Adam Riess.
Suntzeff graduated from Neil Cummins Elementary School in Corte Madera, California and Redwood High School in Larkspur, California. He received his B.S. with distinction in mathematics from Stanford University in 1974 and his Ph.D. in astronomy & astrophysics from the University of California, Santa Cruz and Lick Observatory in 1980.
In 1986, Suntzeff working with Mark M. Phillips at CTIO used the newly developed cryogenic CCD cameras to produce the first modern light curve of a supernova. The fundamental calibration for distances to Type Ia supernovae was invented by the Calán/Tololo Supernova Survey, founded by Mario Hamuy, Jose Maza, Mark M. Phillips, and Suntzeff. The Survey, formed after discussions at the Santa Cruz meeting on supernovae and the encouragement by Allan R. Sandage to use Type Ia supernovae to measure the Hubble constant H0 and the deceleration parameter q0, ran from 1990–95, and provided the pioneering method to measure precision distances to external galaxies, leading to a precise value of the Hubble constant.
Continuing the work of the Calán/Tololo Survey, Suntzeff with Brian P. Schmidt co-founded the High-z Supernova Search Team in 1994 that used observations of extragalactic supernovae to discover the accelerating universe. This universal acceleration implies the existence of dark energy consistent with the cosmological constant of Einstein's theory of General Relativity, and was voted the top science breakthrough of 1998 by Science magazine.
Prior to 2006, he was the Associate Director of Science at the US National Optical Astronomy Observatory, and Astronomer at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. From 1982-1986 he was a Carnegie/Las Campanas Fellow at the Mount Wilson & Las Campanas Observatories, now called the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science. In 2010, he was elected Vice President of the American Astronomical Society. He has been awarded a 2010 Jefferson Senior Science Fellowship of the National Academy of Sciences to work at the US Department of State where he is a Humanitarian Affairs Officer in the Bureau of Human Rights of the Office of International Organization Affairs.
Honors and awards
- Phi Beta Kappa, Beta Chapter, Stanford University, 1974
- Robert J. Trumpler Award for the outstanding Ph.D. in astronomy in North America in 1983
- Carnegie Fellowship, Mt. Wilson Observatory, 1983
- AURA Science Award, personally in 1992 and with the CTIO Supernova Team in 1998
- Breakthrough of the Year, Science Magazine, 1998
- Mitchell/Heep/Munnerlyn Endowed Chair in Observational Astronomy, Texas A&M University, 2006
- Gruber Cosmology Prize with the High-z Supernova Search Team in 2007
- Distinguished Achievement Award of Texas A&M University 2012
- Distinguished University Professor, Texas A&M University system, 2013
- George H. W. Bush Achievement Award, 2013
- Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, 2015
Ancestry and personal life
He is a native of San Francisco, CA and grew up in Corte Madera, CA. He is the paternal grandson of Matvei Adrianovich Evdokimov (1887–1920), one of the principal private arms manufacturers in czarist Russia, located in Izhevsk. The Evdokimov factory in Izhevsk began in the 1860s by Andrian Nikandrovich Evdokimov (1844–1917), and by 1890, was manufacturing Mosin–Nagant and Berdan rifles. They continued production until the Russian Civil War in 1917. These rifles were used during the Revolution and WWI, and were retooled for use during WWII, especially by the Finnish Army.
Although not supporters of the White cause, for their safety the family of Matvei fled east with Admiral Kolchak, the White Army, and the Czech Legion when the Whites captured Perm in 1918. Matvei died at Manchurian Station (Manzhouli) near Chita. His only child, Nicholai Matveevich (1918–1995) continued with Matvei's wife Zoya Vasilevna Suntzeva (1897–1976), with the Suntzeff family to Harbin China and then to the San Francisco in 1928. Nicholai assumed the last name of his mother and immigrated into the US as Nicholas Matveevich Suntzeff. The Suntzeff family, prominent merchants from the Ural region, came from Motovilikha (now part of Perm, Russia) and have ancestry in the Udmurt people.
- Phillips, M. M., et al. (July 1987). "The Type Ia Supernova 1986G in NGC 5128 - Optical Photometry and Spectra". Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 99: 592–605. Bibcode:1987PASP...99..592P. doi:10.1086/132020.
- Phillips, M. M. (August 1993). "The absolute magnitudes of Type IA supernovae". Astrophysical Journal Letters 413: L105–L108. Bibcode:1993ApJ...413L.105P. doi:10.1086/186970.
- Hamuy, M. et al. (December 1993). "The 1990 Calan/Tololo Supernova Search". The Astronomical Journal 106 (6): 2392–2407. Bibcode:1993AJ....106.2392H. doi:10.1086/116811.
- Supernovae. The Tenth Santa Cruz Workshop in Astronomy and Astrophysics, held July 9–21, 1989, Lick Observatory. Editor, S.E. Woosley; Springer-Verlag, New York, 1991.
- Hamuy, M., et al. (December 1996). "The Morphology of Type IA Supernovae Light Curves". The Astronomical Journal 112: 2438. arXiv:astro-ph/9609063. Bibcode:1996AJ....112.2438H. doi:10.1086/118193.
- Suntzeff, N.B. et al. (March 1999). "Optical Light Curve of the Type IA Supernova 1998BU in M96 and the Supernova Calibration of the Hubble Constant". The Astronomical Journal 117 (3): 1175–1184. arXiv:astro-ph/9811205. Bibcode:1999AJ....117.1175S. doi:10.1086/300771.
- Freedman, W. et al. (May 2001). "Final Results from the Hubble Space Telescope Key Project to Measure the Hubble Constant". The Astrophysical Journal 553 (1): 47–72. arXiv:astro-ph/0012376. Bibcode:2001ApJ...553...47F. doi:10.1086/320638.
- Riess, A. et al. (September 1998). "Observational Evidence from Supernovae for an Accelerating Universe and a Cosmological Constant". The Astronomical Journal 116 (3): 1009–1038. arXiv:astro-ph/9805201. Bibcode:1998AJ....116.1009R. doi:10.1086/300499.
- Perlmutter, S. et al. (June 1999). "Measurements of Omega and Lambda from 42 High-Redshift Supernovae". The Astrophysical Journal 517 (2): 565–586. arXiv:astro-ph/9812133. Bibcode:1999ApJ...517..565P. doi:10.1086/307221.
- James Glanz (18 December 1998). "BREAKTHROUGH OF THE YEAR: ASTRONOMY: Cosmic Motion Revealed". Science 282 (5397): 2156–2157. Bibcode:1998Sci...282.2156G. doi:10.1126/science.282.5397.2156a.
- AURA Science Awards