Nicholas B. Suntzeff

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Nicholas Suntzeff
Nbs2009 02.jpg
Houston, Texas 2009
Born (1952-11-22) November 22, 1952 (age 68)
NationalityUnited States
Alma materStanford University
University of California at Santa Cruz
Lick Observatory
Known forObservational cosmology based on supernovae
Scientific career
InstitutionsTexas A&M University,
United States Department of State
Doctoral advisorRobert Kraft

Nicholas B. Suntzeff (born November 22, 1952, San Francisco) is an American University Distinguished Professor and holds the Mitchell/Heep/Munnerlyn Chair of Observational 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. While undergraduates at Stanford University, Suntzeff and engineering student Michael Kast built the Stanford Student Observatory.[1][2]


After graduating in 1980, he worked as a postdoctoral research associate with Professor George Wallerstein in the Department of Astronomy at University of Washington. From 1982 to 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.

After moving to Chile in 1986, Suntzeff working with Mark M. Phillips and Mario Hamuy at CTIO used the newly developed cryogenic CCD cameras to produce the first modern light curve of a Type Ia supernova.[3] The fundamental calibration for distances to Type Ia supernovae was invented by the Calán/Tololo Supernova Survey,[4][5] founded by Mario Hamuy, Jose Maza, Mark M. Phillips, and Suntzeff. The Survey, formed after discussions at the Santa Cruz meeting on supernovae[6] 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 to 1995, and provided the pioneering method to measure precision distances to external galaxies,[7] leading to a precise value of the Hubble constant.[8][9]

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.[10][11] This universal acceleration implies the existence of dark energy consistent with the cosmological constant of Albert Einstein's theory of General Relativity, and was voted the top science breakthrough of 1998 by Science magazine.[12]

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. In 2007, he was elected Councilor of the American Astronomical Society, and in 2010, he was elected Vice President of the same society. He has been awarded a 2010 Jefferson Senior Science Fellowship[13] 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. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin.

Honors and awards[edit]

Ancestry and personal life[edit]

He is a native of San Francisco and grew up in Corte Madera, California. He is the paternal grandson of Matvei Andrianovich Evdokimov (1887–1920) (Russian: Матвей Андрианович Евдокимов), one of the principal private arms manufacturers in czarist Russia, located in Izhevsk.[27] The Evdokimov factory in Izhevsk began in the 1860s by Andrian Nikandrovich Evdokimov (1844–1917 (Russian: Андриан Никандрович Евдокимов), and by 1890, was manufacturing Mosin–Nagant and Berdan rifles.[27][28] They continued production until the Russian Civil War in 1917. These rifles were used during the Revolution and World War I,[29] and were retooled for use during World War II, 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.[30] Matvei died at Manchurian Station (Manzhouli) near Chita. His only child, Nicholai Matveevich Evdiokimov (1918–1995) (Russian: Николай Матвеевич Евдокимов) continued with Matvei's wife Zoya Vasilevna Suntzeva (Russian: Зоя Васильевна Сунцевa) (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 (Russian: Николай Матвеевич Сунцев). The Suntzeff family, prominent merchants from the Ural region, came from Motovilikha (now part of Perm, Russia) and have ancestry in the Udmurt people. A bridge "Сунцев мост" in Motovilikha was named after the family store nearby.[31]

Suntzeff is mentioned in the Alan Alda memoir, "Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: and Other Things I've Learned."[32]


  1. ^ "Student Observatory".
  2. ^ "Domains: Eye on the Sky".
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Hamuy, M.; et al. (December 1993). "The 1990 Calan/Tololo Supernova Search" (PDF). The Astronomical Journal. 106 (6): 2392–2407. Bibcode:1993AJ....106.2392H. doi:10.1086/116811.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Hamuy, M.; et al. (1996). "The Morphology of Type IA Supernovae Light Curves". The Astronomical Journal. 112: 2438–2447. arXiv:astro-ph/9609063. Bibcode:1996AJ....112.2438H. doi:10.1086/118193. S2CID 18539194.
  8. ^ 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. S2CID 119332674.
  9. ^ Freedman, W. (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. S2CID 119097691.
  10. ^ Riess, A.; et al. (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. S2CID 15640044.
  11. ^ Perlmutter, S.; et al. (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. S2CID 118910636.
  12. ^ 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. S2CID 117807831.
  13. ^ a b "Jefferson Science Fellowship". 19 February 2015.
  14. ^ "ASP: Past Winners of the Trumpler Award".
  15. ^ "Recent Fellows at the Carnegie Observatories". The Carnegie Observatories.
  16. ^ "AURA Awards". Archived from the original on 2003-03-29. Retrieved 2008-01-15.
  17. ^ James Glanz (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. S2CID 117807831.
  18. ^ "Chairs and Professorships". Archived from the original on 2016-07-21. Retrieved 2015-09-06.
  19. ^ "| College of Science, Texas A&M University". Archived from the original on 2016-07-21. Retrieved 2015-09-06.
  20. ^ "Brian Schmidt & the High-z Supernova Search Team".
  21. ^ "Association of Former Students University-level Distinguished Achievement Awards". Archived from the original on 2014-12-17.
  22. ^ "List of Distinguished Professors". Archived from the original on 2013-12-20.
  23. ^ "PPO - Bush Excellence Awards for Faculty". Archived from the original on 2018-10-19. Retrieved 2014-12-17.
  24. ^ "Breakthrough Prize".
  25. ^ "APS Fellow Archive".
  26. ^ "Regents Recognize Exemplary Faculty and Professionals". 2017-11-03.
  27. ^ a b Алексеева, Эрнестина Витальевна (2009). Родословная ижевских фабрикантов охотничьего оружия. XIX-XX вв. Ижевск: КнигоГрад. ISBN 978-5-9631-0053-0.
  28. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-06. Retrieved 2014-11-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  29. ^ "Удмуртская правда / Сельский обыватель - оружейник, фабрикант - филантроп". Archived from the original on 2014-12-15. Retrieved 2014-11-24.
  30. ^ "Missouri Women in the Health Sciences - In Her Words - Valentina Suntzeff - Autobiography (Chapter 1)".
  31. ^ "Сунцев мост - Мотовилиха - Фотографии старинной Перми - Фотоальбом - Неизвестная Пермь".
  32. ^ Alda, Alan (2006). Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: and Other Things I've Learned. New York: Random House. ISBN 978-1-4000-6409-0.

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