Internationally known astronomer funds endowment to bring stars to UH

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Margot Schrire, (808) 956-6774
Director of Communications, UH Foundation
Posted: Apr 14, 2015

Drs. Brent Tully and GŁnther Hasinger
Drs. Brent Tully and GŁnther Hasinger

UH Institute for Astronomy (IfA) researcher R. Brent Tully made world news when he identified the full extent of our home supercluster of 100 thousand galaxies and named it Laniakea. The recipient of numerous prestigious astronomical awards, he has chosen to build on IfA’s global prominence by using $264,000 of his prize money to establish the R. Brent Tully Distinguished Visitors Endowed Fund for the IfA.

This fund will enhance learning and collegiality between astronomers at IfA and other astronomers around the world by funding visits by other astronomers to IfA for lectures, joint research and other partnerships.

“Science advances through interactions between researchers,” said IfA Director Dr. Günther Hasinger. “This fund will facilitate visits by researchers, from students to senior astronomers, to IfA. While Hawai‘i offers astronomers important research opportunities because of the strength of IfA and the world-class observing facilities on Mauna Kea and Haleakala, our geographic isolation can pose financial challenges. This fund will address these barriers and help further the cross-pollination of ideas so vital for innovation.  We are most grateful to Brent for his vision and incredible generosity.”

Tully was born in Toronto, Canada, on March 9, 1943, and grew up in Vancouver, Canada. He received bachelor and doctoral degrees from the universities of British Columbia and Maryland. Following graduation, he took a year off to go around the world, before settling in the south of France for two years as a postdoctoral fellow. It was during that period that he was involved in the publication of what became known as the "Tully-Fisher Relation," a method for determining the distances to galaxies, and thus the scale and age of the universe.

Immediately afterward, Tully joined the faculty at the University of Hawai‘i, where he has built his career over forty years. His interests have focused on the nature of the large-scale structure of the universe, by examining how galaxies form and gather together through the gravitational influence of mysterious dark matter. Over the years he has been involved in efforts to map the near part of the universe. This work culminated in the identification of the full extent of our home supercluster of 100 thousand galaxies that he named the Laniakea Supercluster.

“Some of the most exciting, energizing times in science arise when colleagues meet face-to-face,” said Dr. Tully. “It is easy to get people to come to Hawai‘i, both for our facilities and the natural bounty, when the financial burden is not too great.  If I help people from around the world to talk to each other, then I am content.”

Tully has been recognized by a University of Hawai‘i Regent’s Medal for Excellence in Research; a University of Maryland Distinguished Alumnus Award; the Wempe Award of the Leibnitz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam, Germany; the Viktor Ambartsumian International Prize, Armenia; and the Gruber Prize in Cosmology.

To find out how you can support the programs and research at the Institute for Astronomy, please contact Tim Szymanowski at or call (808) 956-0843. You can also make a gift online at

The University of Hawaii Foundation, a nonprofit organization, raises private funds to support the University of Hawai‘i System. The mission of the University of Hawai‘i Foundation is to unite donors’ passions with the University of Hawai‘i’s aspirations by raising philanthropic support and managing private investments to benefit UH, the people of Hawai‘i and our future generations.

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