Astronomy Stories
Slate's Bad Astronomy says a photo of Orion's M43 nebula by Carnegie's Yuri Beletsky and Igor Chilingarian of the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics might be the deep-sky astrophoto of the...
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With the New Horizons historic flyby of Pluto next week, imagine how excited we were a few weeks ago to unearth a set of plates from 1925 in our vault that include Pluto--five years before Pluto was...
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Dr. John Mulchaey Staff Scientist Carnegie Observatories The light we see with our eyes only tells a small part of the Universe's story. To get a complete picture of how the Universe works,...
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Pasadena, CA— The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) has passed a major milestone as 11 international partners—including Carnegie—approved its construction, which secures the project’s future and unlocks...
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Pasadena, CA— Type Ia supernovae are violent stellar explosions that shine as some of the brightest objects in the universe. But there are still many mysteries surrounding their origin—what kind of...
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Type Ia supernovae are violent stellar explosions that shine as some of the brightest objects in the universe. But there are still many mysteries surrounding their origin—what kind of star system...
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Two nights ago, for the first time in history, astronomers from University of Arizona and Carnegie's Yuri Beletsky at Las Campanas Observatory used the Clay Magellan telescope together with Magellan...
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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...
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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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Along with Alycia Weinberger and Ian Thompson, Alan Boss has been running the Carnegie Astrometric Planet Search (CAPS) program, which searches for extrasolar planets by the astrometric method, where the planet's presence is detected indirectly through the wobble of the host star around the center...
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The earliest galaxies are those that are most distant. Staff associate Dan Kelson is interested in how these ancient relics evolved. The latest generation of telescopes and advanced spectrographs—instruments that analyze light to determine properties of celestial objects—allow astronomers to...
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Anthony Piro is the George Ellery Hale Distinguished Scholar in Theoretical Astrophysics at the Carnegie Observatories. He is a theoretical astrophysicist studying compact objects, astrophysical explosions, accretion flows, and stellar dynamics. His expertise is in nuclear physics, thermodynamics,...
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 Barry Madore is widely known for his work on Cepheid variables—very bright pulsating stars used to determine distances in the universe—plus his research on peculiar galaxies, and the extragalactic distance scale. He divides his time between directing science for NED, the NASA/IPAC Extragalactic...
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On Friday, March 23, the first blast (Big Bang Event) occurred at Las Campanas Peak in Chile, at high noon US Eastern Daylight Time. It marked the beginning of mountain leveling and site preparation...
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Pasadena, CA—Type II supernovae are formed when massive stars collapse, initiating giant explosions. It is thought that stars emit a burst of mass as a precursor to the supernova explosion. If this...
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Washington, D.C.—Type Ia supernovae are violent stellar explosions. Observations of their brightness are used to determine distances in the universe and have shown scientists that the universe is...
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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 Carnegie Irvine Galaxy Survey is obtaining high-quality optical and near-infrared images of several hundred of the brightest galaxies in the southern hemisphere sky, at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory to investigate the structural properties of galaxies. For more see

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 2021.

The GMT has a unique design that offers several advantages. It is a segmented mirror telescope that employs seven of today’s largest stiff monolith mirrors as segments. Six off-axis 8.4 meter or 27-foot segments surround a central on-axis segment, forming a single optical surface 24.5 meters, or 80 feet, in diameter with a total collecting area of 368 square meters. The GMT will

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

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

Alan Boss is a theorist and an observational astronomer. His theoretical work focuses on the formation of binary and multiple stars, triggered collapse of the presolar cloud that eventually made  the Solar System, mixing and transport processes in protoplanetary disks, and the formation of gas giant and ice giant protoplanets. His observational works centers on the Carnegie Astrometric Planet Search project, which has been underway for the last decade at Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.

While fragmentation is universally recognized as the dominant formation mechanism for binary and multiple stars, there are still major questions. The most important of these is the

Mark Phillips is the Las Campanas Observatory (LCO) Director Emeritus. From 2006 to 2017 Phillips served as the Associate Director for Magellan, and from 2014 to 2017 he was the interim LCO Director. He is a world-renowned supernova expert. Most stars die quietly by cooling down and “turning off” when they have exhausted their nuclear fuel. But, a few stars end in a gigantic thermonuclear explosion known as a supernova. These objects remain extremely bright for a few weeks, sometimes outshining the galaxies in which they reside. Their extreme brightness at maximum makes them potentially powerful “standard candles”—baselines for probing distances, geometry, and expansion of the universe

 Barry Madore is widely known for his work on Cepheid variables—very bright pulsating stars used to determine distances in the universe—plus his research on peculiar galaxies, and the extragalactic distance scale. He divides his time between directing science for NED, the NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database, and research at Carnegie. His Carnegie work is to resolve discrepancies between observations of galaxies at different wavelengths, with what is happening during galactic evolution.

 Distant and older galaxies appear to be more ragged and disorganized than closer, younger ones. These appearances could be legitimate features, or the effects from the expansion of the universe, which

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