Astronomy Stories
Pasadena, CA— Carnegie’s Allan Sandage, who died in 2010, was a tremendously influential figure in the field of astronomy. His final paper, published posthumously, focuses on unraveling a surprising...
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Pasadena, CA— You can never predict what treasure might be hiding in your own basement. We didn’t know it a year ago, but it turns out that a 1917 image on an astronomical glass plate from our...
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Pasadena, CA—The lightest few elements in the periodic table formed minutes after the Big Bang.  Heavier chemical elements are created by stars, either from nuclear fusion in their interiors or in...
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Take a tour with Cynthia Hunt through eight foundational images from the Carnegie Observatories' plate collection in Nautilus magazine....
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"Supernovae shape the universe we live in and there are still many unanswered questions about these explosions, even for the common ones," Ben Shappee tells The Washington Post about the most-...
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NPR covers the discovery of the most-luminous supernova by a team of astronomers, including Ben Shappee....
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Pasadena, CA—A team of astronomers, including Carnegie’s Benjamin Shappee, Nidia Morrell, and Ian Thompson, has discovered the most-luminous supernova ever observed, called ASAS-SN-15lh. Their...
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Pasadena, CA— New work from a team of astronomers led by Carnegie’s Jennifer van Saders indicates that one recently developed method for determining a star’s age needs to be recalibrated for stars...
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The Earthbound Planet Search Program has discovered hundreds of planets orbiting nearby stars using telescopes at Lick Observatory, Keck Observatory, the Anglo-Australian Observatory, Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory, and the ESO Paranal Observatory.  Our multi-national team has been collecting...
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The fund supports a postdoctoral fellowship in astronomy that rotates between the Carnegie Science departments of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington, D.C., and the Observatories in Pasadena California. 
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The Giant Magellan Telescope will be one member of the next class of super giant earth-based telescopes that promises to revolutionize our view and understanding of the universe. It will be constructed in the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. Commissioning of the telescope is scheduled to begin in...
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Like some other Carnegie astronomers, staff associate Jeffrey Crane blends science with technology. His primary interests are instrumentation, the Milky Way and the neighboring Local Group of galaxies, in addition to extrasolar planets. In 2004, then-research associate Crane joined Steve Shectman,...
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Some 40 thousand tons of extraterrestrial material fall on Earth every year. This cosmic debris provides cosmochemist Conel Alexander with information about the formation of the Solar System, our galaxy, and perhaps the origin of life. Alexander studies meteorites to determine what went on before...
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Leopoldo Infante became the director of the Las Campanas Observatory on July 31, 2017. Since 2009, Infante has been the founder and director of the Centre for Astro-Engineering at the Chilean university. He joined PUC as an assistant professor in 1990 and has been a full professor since 2006. He...
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Pasadena, CA–The international consortium of the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) project has passed two major reviews and is positioned to enter the construction phase. When completed, the 25-meter...
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AudioPasadena, CA—Something is amiss in the Universe. There appears to be an enormous deficit of ultraviolet light in the cosmic budget. The vast reaches of empty space between galaxies are bridged...
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Pasadena, CA— New work from a team of astronomers led by Carnegie’s Jennifer van Saders indicates that one recently developed method for determining a star’s age needs to be recalibrated for stars...
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Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science, Robin Dienel, SDSS-V, Sloan Digital Sky Survey
November 16, 2017

Pasadena, CA— The next generation of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-V), directed by Carnegie’s Juna Kollmeier, will move forward with mapping the entire sky following a $16 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The grant will kickstart a groundbreaking all-sky spectroscopic survey for a next wave of discovery, anticipated to start in 2020.

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey has been one of the most-successful and influential surveys in the history of astronomy, creating the most-detailed three-dimensional maps of the universe ever made, with deep multi-color images of one third of the sky, and spectra for more than three million astronomical objects.

“For more

Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science, European Southern Observatory, ESO/M. Kornmesser
November 8, 2017

Pasadena, CA— It’s the celestial equivalent of a horror movie villain—a star that wouldn’t stay dead.

An international team of astronomers including Carnegie’s Nick Konidaris and Benjamin Shappee discovered a star that exploded multiple times over a period of 50 years. The finding, published by Nature, completely confounds existing knowledge of a star’s end of life, and Konidaris’ instrument-construction played a crucial role in analyzing the phenomenon.  

In September 2014, the intermediate Palomar Transient Factory team of astronomers detected a new explosion in the sky, iPTF14hls.

The light given off by the event was analyzed in order to understand the speed and

Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science, Giant Magellan Telescope Organization, GMTO
November 3, 2017

Pasadena, CA—The Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO) today announced that it has initiated the casting of the fifth of seven mirrors that will form the heart of the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT). The mirror is being cast at the University of Arizona's Richard F. Caris Mirror Laboratory, the facility known for creating the world’s largest mirrors for astronomy. The 25-meter diameter GMT will be sited at Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory in the Chilean Andes and will be used to study planets around other stars and to look back to the time when the first galaxies formed. The process of “casting” the giant mirror involves melting nearly 20 tons of glass in a spinning furnace.

Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science,
October 14, 2017

Washington, DC— On August 17, a team of four Carnegie astronomers provided the first-ever glimpse of two neutron stars colliding, opening the door to a new era of astronomy.  

Along with colleagues at UC Santa Cruz, the team used the Swope telescope at Las Campanas Observatory to discover the light produced by the merger, pinpointing the origin of a gravitational wave signal less than 11 hours after it was detected.  They also obtained the earliest spectra of the collision, which may allow them to explain how many of the universe’s heavy elements were created—a decades old question for astrophysicists.

Their discovery, named Swope Supernova Survey 2017a (or SSS17a), is

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The fund supports a postdoctoral fellowship in astronomy that rotates between the Carnegie Science departments of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington, D.C., and the Observatories in Pasadena California. 

The recent discovery that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate has profoundly affected physics. If the universe were gravity-dominated then it should be decelerating. These contrary results suggest a new form of “dark energy”—some kind of repulsive force—is driving the universe. To get a grasp of dark energy, it is extremely important that scientists get the most accurate measurements possible of Type Ia supernovae. These are specific types of exploring stars with exceptional luminosity that allow astronomers to determine distances and the acceleration rate at different distances. At the moment, the reality of the accelerating universe remains controversial because of

The Carnegie Hubble program is an ongoing comprehensive effort that has a goal of determining the Hubble constant, the expansion rate of the universe,  to a systematic accuracy of 2%. As part of this program, astronomers are obtaining data at the 3.6 micron wavelength using the Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) on Spitzer Space Telescope. The team has demonstrated that the mid-infrared period-luminosity relation for Cepheids, variable stars used to determine distances and the rate of the expansion,  at 3.6 microns is the most accurate means of measuring Cepheid distances to date. At 3.6 microns, it is possible to minimize the known remaining systematic uncertainties in the Cepheid

The Carnegie-Spitzer-IMACS (CSI) survey, currently underway at the Magellan-Baade 6.5m telescope in Chile, has been specifically designed to characterize normal galaxies and their environments at a distance of about 4 billion years post Big Bang, expresses by astronomers as  z=1.5.

The survey selection is done using the Spitzer Space Telescope Legacy fields, which provides as close a selection by stellar mass as possible.

Using the IMACS infrared camera, the survey goal is to study galaxies down to low light magnitudes. The goal is to reduce the variance in the density of massive galaxies at these distances and times to accurately trace the evolution of the galaxy mass

Globular clusters are spherical systems of some 100,000  gravitationally bound stars. They are among the oldest components of our galaxy and are key to understanding the age and scale of the universe. Previous measurements of their distances have compared the characteristics of different types of stars in the solar neighborhood with the same types of stars found in the clusters. However, these measurements have systematic errors, which limit the determination of cluster ages and distances.

 Ian Thompson has a different approach to the problem: using observations of exceedingly rare Detached Eclipsing Binary stars. These systems have two separated stars orbiting each other such

We are all made of stardust. Almost all of the chemical elements were produced by nuclear reactions in the interiors of stars. When a star dies a fraction of the elements is released into the inter-stellar gas clouds, out of which successive generations of stars form.

 Astronomers have a basic understanding of this chemical enrichment cycle, but chemical evolution and nulceosynthesis are still not fully understood. Andrew McWilliam measures the detailed chemical composition of Red Giant stars, which are about as old as the galaxy and retain their original chemical composition.  He is seeking answer to questions such as: What are the sites of nucleosynthesis? What modulates element

Guillermo Blanc wants to understand the processes by which galaxies form and evolve over the course of the history of the universe. He studies local galaxies in the “present day” universe as well as very distant and therefore older galaxies to observe the early epochs of galaxy evolution. Blanc conducts a series of research projects on the properties of young and distant galaxies, the large-scale structure of the universe, the nature of Dark Energy—the mysterious repulsive force, the process of star formation at galactic scales, and the measurement of chemical abundances in galaxies.

To conduct this work, he takes a multi-wavelength approach including observations in the UV,

Scott Sheppard studies the dynamical and physical properties of small bodies in our Solar System, such as asteroids, comets, moons and trans-neptunian objects (bodies that orbit beyond Neptune).  These objects have a fossilized imprint from the formation and migration of the major planets in our Solar System, which allow us to understand how the Solar System came to be.

The major planets in our Solar System travel around the Sun in fairly circular orbits and on similar planes. However, since the discovery of wildly varying planetary systems around other stars, and given our increased understanding about small, primordial bodies in our celestial neighborhood, the notion that our