The Carnegie Observatories is proud to partner with The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens for the 17th season of the Carnegie Astronomy Lecture Series. The season includes four talks by Carnegie astronomers from the Observatories and from our one of sister departments on the East Coast. The Lectures are designed to share the excitement of current astronomical research with science enthusiasts from the general public. Please join us for the 2019 series in this beautiful venue.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Lecture will be preceded by a brief musical performance by students from The Colburn School. Lecture will start promptly at 7:30 p.m. Light refreshments will be available. Directions are available here.



A New Tool to Map Entire Galaxies

Monday, April 1, 2019 - 7:00pm to 8:45pm

Popular images of galaxies, while beautiful, do not provide the information that astronomers need to measure their inherent properties, such as their dynamics and the compositions of their stars and gases. Using the latest technological advances, Dr. McGurk is building a new, custom-designed instrument for Carnegie Observatories' Magellan Telescopes, which will reveal the universe in extreme detail–making it possible to efficiently create 3-D maps of galaxies, nebulae, and more.

Dr. Rosalie McGurk: Fellow in Instrumentation, Carnegie Observatories


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Dr. Anat Shahar - A Short History of Planet Formation

Monday, April 18, 2016 - 6:45pm

Our solar system formed 4.5 billion years ago in an extremely chaotic environment and has evolved significantly over that time. What we see today is an organized inner solar system with four very di erent terrestrial planets. Join Dr. Shahar for an exploration of these planets as we try to understand their diversity. By analyzing rocks we can hold in our hands today and conducting experiments in the laboratory, we can probe which processes and condi- tions the terrestrial planets experienced billions of years ago.

Dr. Anat Shahar
Staff Scientist, Geophysical Laboratory
Carnegie Institution for Science

Dr. Andrew Wetzel - Simulating the Universe, One Galaxy at a Time

Monday, April 17, 2017 - 7:30pm to 8:30pm

The formation of galaxies like our Milky Way involves gravity, dark matter, gases, star formation, and stellar explosions. Theoretical astrophysics is now revealing this complex process by using the world’s most powerful supercomputers to simulate galaxy formation. Dr. Wetzel will describe dramatic new advances in understanding how galaxies form within the cosmic web of the Universe.

Andrew Wetzel, Caltech-Carnegie Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Daniel Eisenstein - Dark Energy and Cosmic Sound

Monday, May 7, 2018 - 7:00pm to 8:45pm

Sound waves propagating through the Universe only 400,000 years after the Big Bang now offer some of our most-precise measures of the composition and history of the Universe. In the last decade, we have detected the fossil imprint of these sound waves using maps of the distribution of galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Dr. Eisenstein will describe these waves and the ambitious experiments that use them to extend our cosmological reach.

Dr. Daniel Eisenstein: Professor of Astronomy, Harvard University and Director, Sloan Digital Sky Survey III


Dr. Jennifer van Saders - Twinkle, twinkle, little star, now I see you as you are: How we see inside a star with sound

Monday, May 15, 2017 - 7:30pm to 8:30pm

We have sought to understand the internal workings of stars for as long as we have done astronomy, with the Sun as our first and best-studied star. Today, the technique of “asteroseismology” has revolutionized our view: just as seismology here on Earth reveals the interior of our own planet, asteroseismology of the stars allows us to view their central engines and structures. 

Jennifer van Saders, Carnegie-Princeton Fellow

Dr. Johanna Teske – Exoplanet Genetics

Monday, May 1, 2017 - 7:30pm to 8:30pm

How do we find planets orbiting stars other than our Sun? How do we know what they’re made of, or if they’re Earth-like?  Dr. Teske will discuss how exoplanets’ composition is “inherited” from their host star ‘’genes,” and will highlight new exoplanet discoveries and the Carnegie Institution’s pivotal role in understanding exoplanet formation and composition.

Johanna Teske, Carnegie Origins Postdoctoral Fellow

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Dr. John Mulchaey - The Multiwavelength Universe

Monday, March 30, 2015 - 6:45pm to 7:30pm

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, astronomers must study objects over the full range of light, the electromagnetic spectrum. This includes gamma rays, X-rays, ultraviolet, visible, infrared, micro- waves and radio waves. Each type of light requires different instruments, and provides unique information about the source that emitted it. Dr. Mulchaey will explain how Carnegie astronomers and their colleagues are combining observations across the electromagnetic spectrum to help solve the mysteries of the Universe.

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Dr. Joseph Masiero - A Tale of Asteroid Families

Monday, April 23, 2018 - 7:00pm to 8:45pm

The formation of our Solar System was a chaotic collapse of gas and dust into the Sun, planets, asteroids, and comets we have today, punctuated by catastrophic collisions between these forming bodies. Dr. Masiero will discuss how the asteroid families in the belt today are the last remnants of these massive collisions, and give us a window into the processes that shaped our Solar System.

Joseph Masiero: Scientist & NEOWISE Deputy-PI, NASA Jet Propulsion Lab


Dr. Juna Kollmeier - At the Edge of Reason: The Black Holes in the Universe

Monday, April 27, 2015 - 6:45pm to 7:30pm

Black holes remain among the most enigmatic objects in the universe. Using both computer simulations and traditional analytic theory, Dr. Kollmeier is making major discoveries showing how tiny fluctuations in density in the early universe have become the galaxies and black holes that we see after 14 billion years of cosmic evolution. In this Lecture, Dr. Kollmeier will review our basic knowledge of black holes and explore outstanding mysteries
regarding their formation and structure.

Dr. Katherine Alatalo - The Secret Lives of Galaxies

Monday, May 16, 2016 - 6:45pm

The Hubble sequence of galaxies resembles a simple classification chart, yet underneath the neatly aligned shapes and colors lie complex and violent histories. Through radio, infrared, UV and optical astronomy, today we can deduce these histories – and the future. Nearby examples of every stage in the Hubble sequence provide living galactic fossils that reveal their 10 billion years of evolution. Dr. Alatalo will tour the Hubble sequence, exploring three avenues to galactic transi- tions: the quiet, slow fade; the violent merger; and the quietly violent evolution of a galaxy, likely due to a supermassive black hole in its center. By exploring how each piece of the puzzle fits with every other piece, we can understand the evolution of the Universe and fundamental questions of how we got here.

Dr. Katherine Alatalo
Hubble Fellow,
Carnegie Observatories

Dr. Kevin Schlaufman - Exoplanets

Monday, May 2, 2016 - 6:45pm

This is an extraordinary time in human history. While it has been only twenty years since astronomers first discovered planets outside of our solar system, we are already aware of several planets that could have liquid water on their surfaces. In just ten years, we will have the technological ability to search for signs of life, like oxygen and methane, in the atmospheres of a few select exoplanets. Dr. Schlaufman will tell the story of exoplanets to date, and outline the progress we will soon see in the search for life elsewhere in our Galaxy.

Dr. Kevin Schlaufman
Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Johns Hopkins University
Carnegie-Princeton Fellow

Carnegie Observatories & Princeton University

Dr. Maria Drout - Astronomical Alchemy: The Origin of the Elements

Monday, May 21, 2018 - 6:15pm

As Carl Sagan once said, "We are made of star stuff." However, each element has its own astronomical origins story. Elements are created everywhere from the centers of stars, to supernovae explosions, to the Big Bang itself. Dr. Drout will take us on a journey through the periodic table, highlighting how our recent discovery of a 'kilonova' associated with the cataclysmic merger of two neutron stars has filled in one of the final pieces of the elemental puzzle—the origin of many of the heaviest elements in the universe.

Maria Drout: Hubble, Carnegie-Dunlap Fellow, Carnegie Observatories


Dr. Marja K. Seidel - Sharing the Wonders of the Light and Dark Universe

Monday, April 9, 2018 - 7:00pm to 8:45pm

What is the Universe made of? We can peer millions of years into the past in the night sky, yet we barely understand just 5 percent—the “regular” matter that we can see. In the standard cosmological model, a quarter of the remaining 95 percent is dark matter. Dr. Seidel will discuss her quest to understand dark matter, and her experiences bringing astronomy education to some of the most remote and under-served locations on Earth.

Dr. Marja K. Seidel: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Carnegie Observatories


Dr. Mark Phillips - Las Campanas Observatory: A Southern Window on the Universe

Monday, April 4, 2016 - 6:45pm

For 45 years, the Las Campanas Observatory of the Carnegie Institution for Science has provided a superlative window in the Southern Hemisphere for exploring the wonders of our Universe. Located in the Andes foothills of northern Chile, the Las Campanas telescopes have yielded many breakthrough discoveries: giant voids and immense structures in the distribution of galaxies, the first detection of a proto- planetary disk around a neighboring star, the first naked-eye supernova since the invention of the telescope, and much more. Dr. Phillips will recount the spectacular growth of astronomical research in this unique land, while also looking ahead to the bright future of scientific discovery that awaits Las Campanas.

Dr. Mark Phillips
Director, Las Campanas Observatory, Associate Director for Magellan
Carnegie Institution for Science

Dr. Matthew P. Scott - The Genes That Built You

Monday, April 13, 2015 - 6:45pm to 7:30pm

Carnegie Astronomy is also part of Carnegie Science and the study of all living species. From ancient single-celled organisms evolved multicellular animals whose immense numbers of specialized cell types—skin, muscle, nerve—allow division of labor. Each cell type forms in the right place, is suited to its task, and activates certain genes. Powerful cell-to-cell communication systems organize structured tissues such as lungs, limbs and brain. Dr. Scott will discuss half-billion-year-old genes that have been gradually modified to give rise to the vast diversity of animals.

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Dr. Robert P. Kirshner - The Accelerating Universe

Monday, May 11, 2015 - 6:45pm to 7:30pm

The expanding universe was discovered at Mount Wilson almost 100 years ago. But there is something new! In the past 20 years, astronomers have found that cosmic expansion is speeding up, driven by a mysterious “dark energy” whose nature we do not understand. Dr. Kirshner, one of today's preeminent astrophysicists, is the recipient of many prestigious awards, including the 2014 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics (sponsored by Google, among others), as well as the 2014 James Craig Watson Medal of the National Academy of Sciences for “service to astronomy.”

Dr. Robert P. Kirshner, Clowes Professor of Science, Harvard University

Dr. Tony Piro - Unraveling the Mysteries of Exploding Stars

Monday, April 3, 2017 - 7:30pm to 8:30pm

Supernovae are cosmic explosions where a single star can become as bright as a billion stars combined. Even though supernovae are crucial to the Universe, including producing the elements necessary for life, many mysteries remain. What powers them? Which stars are exploding? How do stars die? Astrophysicists are combining clues from observations with theoretical modeling to finally address these issues. And just like with any good mystery, often the answers lead to even more questions.

Tony Piro, George Ellery Hale Distinguished Scholar in Theoretical Astrophysics, Carnegie Observatories

Glimpses of the Cosmic Dawn

Monday, March 18, 2019 - 7:00pm to 8:45pm

Astronomers have mapped almost the entire history of our universe, from the Big Bang to the present day. One last frontier remains, an epoch known as cosmic dawn, when the first stars and galaxies were born and changed the universe forever. Dr. Ji will take us on a short tour of the early history of our universe and explain how we obtain glimpses of this era.

Dr. Alex Ji: Hubble Fellow, Carnegie Observatories


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Stars Under the Microscope

Monday, April 15, 2019 - 7:00pm to 8:45pm

Some meteorites contain rare, tiny grains of dust that formed in the explosions of ancient stars and became part of the gas and dust cloud that formed our Solar System. Dr. Nittler will discuss how he uses microscopic analyses to understand what these “presolar” stellar fossils tell us about the evolution and inner workings of stars, and the chemical history of the matter that became the Sun and planets.

Dr. Larry Nittler: Staff Scientist, Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Science


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The DNA of Galaxies

Monday, April 29, 2019 - 7:00pm to 8:45pm

Like people, each of the billions of galaxies in the universe developed its own unique traits over a complicated lifetime. Until recently, astronomers have only been able to study galaxies closest to the Milky Way in detail, leaving much of the universe's history a mystery. Dr. Strom will show how astronomers are now using the world's largest telescopes to determine the chemical DNA of even very distant galaxies, and how this information is answering key questions about how galaxies like our own formed and evolved.

Dr. Allison Strom: Carnegie-Princeton Fellow, Carnegie Observatories


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Building Astronomical Instrumentation for the Next Generation

Monday, September 14, 2020 - 7:00pm to 8:00pm

For the past 20 years, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey—a collaboration among astronomers worldwide—has been working to gather spectral and photometric data covering one-third of the sky and analyzing millions of individual objects. The making of every telescope and its instrumentation requires extraordinary creativity, innovation, and expertise, and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey has pioneered the development of novel equipment designed to address many crucial astronomical questions. The resulting information provides a rich legacy for future research. In this lecture, Dr. Ramirez will describe how SDSS-V, the latest phase of this massive project, is designing and building the instrumentation that will reveal new information about the universe in unprecedented detail. 

Dr. Solange V. Ramirez: Astronomer and SDSS-V Project Manager, Carnegie Observatories, Carnegie Institution for Science


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Hubble's Troublesome Constant

Monday, October 5, 2020 - 7:00pm to 8:00pm

Nearly 100 years ago, Carnegie astronomer Edwin Hubble made two truly revolutionary discoveries: First that our Milky Way was only one of many galaxies in a vast universe, and second that the farther these galaxies were from us, the faster they appeared to be moving away from us. The ratio between these speeds and distances, which we now call the Hubble Constant, is a fundamental quantity that sets the scale for the size and age of the entire cosmos. For decades, its precise value has been a source of contention among astronomers. Even today, with the most-powerful telescopes at our disposal, tension between different groups remains. Dr. Burns will cover the history of Hubble’s troublesome constant and how we are trying to pin it down.

Dr. Chris Burns: Research Associate, Carnegie Observatories, Carnegie Institution for Science


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