Astronomy Stories
It isn’t often that our Capital Science Evening speaker hints at soon-to-be-breaking news right from the stage. Tuesday night, Pierre Cox, Director of the Atacama Large Milimiter/submillimeter...
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This artist's impression of the quasar P172+18. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser.
Pasadena, CA— The Magellan Baade telescope at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory played an important role in the discovery of the most-distant known quasar with a bright radio emission,...
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3D spatial distribution of 16 spectroscopically confirmed proto-clusters.
Las Campanas Observatory—When the universe was about 350 million years old it was dark: there were no stars or galaxies, only neutral gas—mainly hydrogen—the residue of the Big Bang...
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Vicinity of Tucana II ultra-faint dwarf galaxy. Credit: Anirudh Chiti/MIT.
Pasadena, CA—An MIT-led team of astronomers that includes Carnegie’s Joshua Simon, Lina Necib, and Alexander Ji has discovered an unexpected outer suburb of stars on the distant fringes...
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A giant star being slowly devoured by a black hole courtesy of NASA Goddard.
Pasadena, CA—In a case of cosmic mistaken identity, an international team of astronomers revealed that what they once thought was a supernova is actually periodic flaring from a galaxy where a...
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An artist’s conception of GN-z11 courtesy of Jingchuan Yu.
Pasadena, CA— New work from an international team of astronomers including Carnegie’s Gregory Walth improves our understanding of the most-distant known astrophysical object— GN-z11...
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The Blue Ring Nebula courtesy of Mark Seibert
Pasadena, CA— The mysterious Blue Ring Nebula has puzzled astronomers since it was discovered in 2004. New work published in Nature...
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Carnegie theoretical astrophysicist Anthony Piro engages with the VizLab wall.
Pasadena, CA— In a refurbished Southern California garage, Carnegie astrophysicists are creating the virtual reality-enabled scientific workspace of the future where they will unlock...
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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    http...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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Director Emeritus, George Preston has been deciphering the chemical evolution of stars in our Milky Way for a quarter of a century. He and Steve Shectman started this quest using a special technique to conduct a needle-in-the-haystack search for the few, first-generation stars, whose chemical...
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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...
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Pasadena, CA— Eta Carinae, one of the most massive stars in our Milky Way galaxy, unexpectedly increased in brightness in the 19th century. For ten years in the mid-1800s it was the second-brightest...
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Pasadena, CA—A team of researchers including Carnegie’s Mansi Kasliwal and John Mulchaey used a novel astronomical survey software system—the intermediate Palomar Transient Factory (iPTF)—to link a...
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Pasadena, CA--A team of astronomers has discovered the most distant cluster of red galaxies ever observed using FourStar, a new and powerful near-infrared camera on the 6.5m Magellan Baade Telescope...
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This artist's impression of the quasar P172+18. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser.
March 8, 2021

Pasadena, CA— The Magellan Baade telescope at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory played an important role in the discovery of the most-distant known quasar with a bright radio emission, which was announced by a Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg and European Southern Observatory-led team and published in The Astrophysical Journal. One of the fastest-growing supermassive black holes ever observed, it is emitting about 580 times the energy as the entire Milky Way galaxy.

Quasars are incredibly luminous supermassive black holes accreting matter at the centers of massive galaxies. Their brightness allows astronomers to study them in detail even at great

3D spatial distribution of 16 spectroscopically confirmed proto-clusters.
February 12, 2021

Las Campanas Observatory—When the universe was about 350 million years old it was dark: there were no stars or galaxies, only neutral gas—mainly hydrogen—the residue of the Big Bang. That foggy period began to clear as atoms clumped together to form the first stars and the first quasars, causing the gas to ionize and high-energy photons to travel freely through space. 

This epoch, called the “reionization” epoch, lasted about 370 million years and the first large structures in the universe appear as groups or clusters of galaxies. 

An international team of astronomers grouped in the LAGER consortium (Lyman Alpha Galaxies in the Epoch

Vicinity of Tucana II ultra-faint dwarf galaxy. Credit: Anirudh Chiti/MIT.
February 1, 2021

Pasadena, CA—An MIT-led team of astronomers that includes Carnegie’s Joshua Simon, Lina Necib, and Alexander Ji has discovered an unexpected outer suburb of stars on the distant fringes of the dwarf galaxy Tucana II. Their detection, published by Nature Astronomy, confirms that the cosmos’ oldest galaxies formed inside massive clumps of dark matter—what astronomers refer to as a “dark matter halo."

Our own Milky Way is surrounded by a cadre of orbiting dwarf galaxies—relics of the ancient universe. A new technique developed by lead author Anirudh Chiti of MIT extended the astronomers’ reach and revealed never-before-seen stars on the

A giant star being slowly devoured by a black hole courtesy of NASA Goddard.
January 12, 2021

Pasadena, CA—In a case of cosmic mistaken identity, an international team of astronomers revealed that what they once thought was a supernova is actually periodic flaring from a galaxy where a supermassive black hole gives off bursts of energy every 114 days as it tears off chunks of an orbiting star.

Six years after its initial discovery—reported in The Astronomer’s Telegram by Carnegie’s Thomas Holoien—the researchers, led by Anna Payne of University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, can now say that the phenomenon they observed, called ASASSN-14ko, is a periodically recurring flare from the center of a galaxy more than 570 million light-years away in the

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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    http://cgs.obs.carnegiescience.edu/CGS/Home.html

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

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

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 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

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 and during the formation of our Solar System. Meteorites are fragments of asteroids—small bodies that originated between Mars and Jupiter—and are likely the last remnants of objects that gave rise to the terrestrial planets. He is particularly interested in the analysis of chondrules, millimeter-size spherical objects that are the dominant constituent of the most primitive

Stephen Shectman blends his celestial interests with his gift of developing novel telescope instrumentation. He investigates the large-scale structure of the galaxy distribution; searches for ancient stars that have few elements; develops astronomical instruments; and constructs large telescopes. Shectman was the former project scientist for Magellan and is largely responsible for the superb quality of 6.5-meter telescopes. He is now a member of the Giant Magellan Telescope Project Scientists’ Working Group.

 To understand large-scale structure, Shectman has participated in several galaxy surveys. He and collaborators discovered a particularly large void in the galaxy

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, condensed matter physics, General Relativity, and fluid and magneto-hydrodanmics. He uses this background  to predict new observational phenomena as well as to understand the key underlying physical mechanisms responsible for current observations. He uses a combination of analytic and simple numerical models to build physical intuition for complex phenomena.

Piro recieved his