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  • A team of astronomers has discovered the most-distant body ever observed in our Solar System.  It is the first known Solar System object that has been detected at a distance that is more than 100 times farther than Earth is from the Sun.  It was announced Monday by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center. Carnegie’s Scott S. Sheppard, the University of Hawaii’s David Tholen, and Northern Arizona University’s Chad Trujillo made the discovery.

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    Earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, hurricanes, and volcanoes—they all stem from the very same forces that give our planet life. It is only when these forces exceed our ability to withstand them that they become disasters. Science and engineering can be used to understand extreme events and to design our cities to be resilient, but we must overcome the psychological drive to normalization that keeps humanity from believing that we could experience anything worse than what we have already survived.

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Pasadena, CA— Miguel Roth, director of Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile from 1990 to 2014 and the current representative of the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO) in Chile was awarded the Bernardo O’Higgins Order by the Chilean Foreign Affairs Ministry in Santiago today.

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New work from the Carnegie Supernova Project provides the best-yet calibrations for using type Ia supernovae to measure cosmic distances, which has implications for our understanding of how fast the universe is expanding and the role dark energy may play in driving this process. Led by Carnegie astronomer Chris Burns, the team’s findings are published in The Astrophysical Journal.  

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How much of a reef’s ability to withstand stressful conditions is influenced by the type of symbiotic algae that its corals hosts? New work from a team including Carnegie's Arthur Grossman investigates how the the abundance and diversity of nutrients that algae share with their coral  hosts varies between species and what this could mean for coral’s ability to survive in a changing climate.  The research team determined that in the wake of a bleaching event, even an algal tenant that’s poor provider may be better than no provider.

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The interactions that take place between the species of microbes living in the gastrointestinal system often have large and unpredicted effects on health, according to new work led by Carnegie’s Will Ludington, who assembled a team of biologists, physicists, and mathematicians to comprehensively reveal the gut microbiome ecosystem of fruit flies. 

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  • A supernova discovered by an international group of astronomers including Carnegie’s Tom Holoien and Maria Drout, and Carnegie alumnus Ben Shappee of the University of Hawaii, provides an unprecedented look at the first moments of a violent stellar explosion. The light from the explosion's first hours showed an unexpected pattern, which Carnegie's Anthony Piro analyzed to reveal that the genesis of these phenomena is even more mysterious than previously thought.

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Until now, computer models have been the primary tool for estimating photosynthetic productivity on a global scale. They are based on estimating a measure for plant energy called gross primary production (GPP), which is the rate at which plants capture and store a unit of chemical energy as biomass...
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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 WGESP was charged with acting as a focal point for research on extrasolar planets and organizing IAU activities in the field, including reviewing techniques and maintaining a list of identified planets. The WGESP developed a Working List of extrasolar planet candidates, subject to revision. In...
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Capital Science Evening Lectures
Wednesday, February 20, 2019 - 6:30pm to 7:45pm

Over the past few years, Dr. Sheppard and his team have been performing the largest and deepest survey ever attempted of our Solar System’s fringes. In December 2018, he...

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Capital Science Evening Lectures
Tuesday, March 5, 2019 - 6:30pm to 7:45pm

Entrepreneur and inventor Dr. Rothblatt cofounded Sirius Satellite Radio and then pivoted to establish biotech company United Therapeutics in an effort to save her daughter’s life from...

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Distant galaxies offer a glimpse of the universe as it was billions of years ago. Understanding how the Milky Way and other galaxies originated provides a unique perspective on the fundamental physics of cosmology, the invisible dark matter, and  repulsive force of dark energy. Patrick...
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Geochemist and director of Terrestrial Magnetism, Richard Carlson, looks at the diversity of the chemistry of the early solar nebula and the incorporation of that chemistry into the terrestrial planets. He is also interested in questions related to the origin and evolution of Earth’s...
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Volcanologist Diana Roman is interested in the mechanics of how magma moves through the Earth’s crust, and in the structure, evolution, and dynamics of volcanic conduit systems. Her ultimate goal is to understand the likelihood and timing of volcanic eruptions. Most of Roman’s research...
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Artist concept of 2018 VG18, nicknamed "Farout.” Illustration by Roberto Molar Candanosa is courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science.
December 17, 2018

Washington, DC— A team of astronomers has discovered the most-distant body ever observed in our Solar System.  It is the first known Solar System object that has been detected at a distance that is more than 100 times farther than Earth is from the Sun.

The new object was announced on Monday, December 17, 2018, by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center and has been given the provisional designation 2018 VG18. The discovery was made by Carnegie’s Scott S. Sheppard, the University of Hawaii’s David Tholen, and Northern Arizona University’s Chad Trujillo.

2018 VG18, nicknamed “Farout” by the discovery team for

December 14, 2018

Pasadena, CA— Miguel Roth, director of Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile from 1990 to 2014 and the current representative of the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO) in Chile was awarded the Bernardo O’Higgins Order by the Chilean Foreign Affairs Ministry in Santiago today. The honor is in recognition “of his contribution to the development of astronomy in Chile, and for inspiring appreciation and knowledge of astronomy among students and people of all ages.”

The award is the highest civilian honor for non-Chileans. O’Higgins was one of the founders of the Chilean Republic. The award was established in 1965 to recognize

An artist’s conception of a type Ia supernova exploding, courtesy of ESO.
December 11, 2018

Pasadena, CA—New work from the Carnegie Supernova Project provides the best-yet calibrations for using type Ia supernovae to measure cosmic distances, which has implications for our understanding of how fast the universe is expanding and the role dark energy may play in driving this process. Led by Carnegie astronomer Chris Burns, the team’s findings are published in The Astrophysical Journal.  

Type Ia supernovae are fantastically bright stellar phenomena. They are violent explosions of a white dwarf—the crystalline remnant of a star that has exhausted its nuclear fuel—which is part of a binary system with another star.

In addition to being

A bright field image of the anemone Aiptasia populated with its symbiotic algae.
December 6, 2018

Stanford, CA—How much of the ability of a coral reef to withstand stressful conditions is influenced by the type of algae that the corals hosts?

Corals are marine invertebrates from the phylum called cnidarians that build large exoskeletons from which colorful reefs are constructed. But this reef-building is only possible because of a mutually beneficial relationship between the coral and various species of single-celled algae called dinoflagellates that live inside the cells of coral polyps.

The algae are photosynthetic—meaning capable of converting the Sun’s energy into chemical energy for food, just like plants. And the exchange of nutrients between the

February 20, 2019

Over the past few years, Dr. Sheppard and his team have been performing the largest and deepest survey ever attempted of our Solar System’s fringes. In December 2018, he announced the most-distant object ever observed in our Solar System. His team’s work has shown that the farthest-out-there objects—beyond the Kuiper Belt and the influence of the known major planets—are strangely grouped together in space. This suggests the existence of a yet-unobserved planet, sometimes called Planet X or Planet 9, more massive than the Earth, which is shaping the current orbits of these objects. Dr. Sheppard will 

March 5, 2019

Entrepreneur and inventor Dr. Rothblatt cofounded Sirius Satellite Radio and then pivoted to establish biotech company United Therapeutics in an effort to save her daughter’s life from pulmonary arterial hypertension. The company now has five drugs on the market—which have drastically improved survival outcomes for the disease—and it is currently innovating to reduce the number of patients who die waiting for a lung or kidney transplant. Her guiding philosophy is finding ways to “turn a Moonshot into an Earthshot,” in this case how to tackle the goal of an unlimited organ supply by developing procedures to increase the number of donated organs that are in

The Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO), developed by GregAsner, is a fixed-wing aircraft that sweeps laser light across the vegetation canopy to image it in brilliant 3-D. The data can determine the location and size of each tree at a resolution of 3.5 feet (1.1 meter), a level of detail that is unprecedented. By combining field surveys with this airborne mapping and high-resolution satellite monitoring the team has been able to detail myriad ecological features of forests around the world.

As one example, Carnegie scientists with the Peruvian Ministry of Environment mapped the true extent of gold mining in the biologically diverse region of Madre de Dios in the Peruvian Amazon.

Anna Michalak’s team combined sampling and satellite-based observations of Lake Erie with computer simulations and determined that the 2011 record-breaking algal bloom in the lake was triggered by long-term agricultural practices coupled with extreme precipitation, followed by weak lake circulation and warm temperatures. The bloom began in the western region in mid-July and covered an area of 230 square miles (600 km2). At its peak in October, the bloom had expanded to over 1930 square miles (5000 km2). Its peak intensity was over 3 times greater than any other bloom on record. The scientists predicted that, unless agricultural policies change, the lake will continue to experience

In mammals, most lipids, such as fatty acids and cholesterol, are absorbed into the body via the small intestine. The complexity of the cells and fluids that inhabit this organ make it very difficult to study in a laboratory setting. The goal of the Farber lab is to better understand the cell and molecular biology of lipids within digestive organs by exploiting the many unique attributes of the clear zebrafish larva  to visualize lipid uptake and processing in real time.  Given their utmost necessity for proper cellular function, it is not surprising that defects in lipid metabolism underlie a number of human diseases, including obesity, diabetes, and atherosclerosis.

Carnegie researchers are developing new scientific approaches that integrate phylogenetic, chemical and spectral remote sensing perspectives - called Spectranomics - to map canopy function and biological diversity throughout tropical forests of the world.

Mapping the composition and chemistry of species in tropical forests is critical to understanding forest functions related to human use and climate change. However, high-resolution mapping of tropical forest canopies is challenging because traditional field, airborne and satellite measurements cannot easily measure the canopy chemical or taxonomic variation among species over large regions. New technology, such as the Carnegie

Devaki Bhaya wants to understand how environmental stressors, such as light, nutrients, and viral attacks are sensed by and affect photosynthetic microorganisms. She is also interested in understanding the mechanisms behind microorganism movements, and how individuals in groups communicate, evolve, share resources. To these ends, she focuses on one-celled, aquatic cyanobacteria, in the lab with model organisms and with organisms in naturally occurring communities.

 Phototaxis is the ability of organisms to move directionally in response to a light source.  Many cyanobacteria exhibit phototaxis, both towards and away from light. The ability to move into optimal light

Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution for Science, Carnegie Institution

Greg Asner is a staff scientist in Carnegie's Department of Global Ecology and also serves as a Professor in the Department of Earth System Science at Stanford University. He is an ecologist recognized for his exploratory and applied research on ecosystems, land use, and climate change at regional to global scales.

Asner graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Colorado, Boulder, in 1991. He earned master's and doctorate degrees in geography and biology, respectively, from the University of Colorado in 1997. He served as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences at Stanford University until

The entire universe—galaxies, stars, and planets—originally condensed from a vast network of tenuous, gaseous filaments, known as the intergalactic medium, or the gaseous cosmic web. Most of the matter in this giant reservoir has never been incorporated into galaxies; it keeps floating about in intergalactic space, largely in the form of ionized hydrogen gas.

 Michael Rauch is interested in all aspects of the intergalactic medium. He uses large telescopes, like the Magellans, to take spectra—light that reveals the chemical makeup of distant objects— of background quasars, which are highly energetic and extremely remote. He is looking for evidence of

One way to adapt to climate change is to understand how plants can thrive in the changing environment. José Dinneny looks at the mechanisms that control environmental responses in plants, including responses to salty soils and different moisture conditions—work that provides the foundation for developing crops for the changing climate.

The Dinneny  lab focuses on understanding how developmental processes such as cell-type specification regulate responses to environmental change. Most studies have considered the organ or even the whole organism as a single responsive unit and ignore the potential diversity of responses by the various cell-types composing an