Astronomy Stories
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...
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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...
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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...
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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....
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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...
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This video was part of the 2015 Open House at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, CA,. We show plates from 1894 to 1971, how they were made at Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories, and it...
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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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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...
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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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John Mulchaey is the director and the Crawford H. Greenewalt Chair of the Carnegie Observatories. He investigates groups and clusters of galaxies, elliptical galaxies, dark matter—the invisible material that makes up most of the universe—active galaxies and black holes. He is also...
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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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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...
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Carnegie astronomer Mark Phillips, interim director of the Las Campanas Observatory, is one of a group of scientists being honored with the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. The prize...
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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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New work from a research team including the director of Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory, Leopoldo Infante, has tripled the sample size of known galaxies that can teach scientists about a...
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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

Pan-STARRS image showing the host galaxy of the newly discovered supernova ASASSN-18bt
November 29, 2018

Pasadena, CA—A supernova discovered by an international group of astronomers including Carnegie’s Tom Holoien and Maria Drout, and led by University of Hawaii’s Ben Shappee, 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.

Their findings are published in a trio of papers in The Astrophysical Journal and The Astrophysical Journal Letters. (You can read them here, here, and here.)

Type Ia supernovae are

SDSS/Caltech/Keck
October 11, 2018

Pasadena, CA—Carnegie’s Anthony Piro was part of a Caltech-led team of astronomers who observed the peculiar death of a massive star that exploded in a surprisingly faint and rapidly fading supernova, possibly creating a compact neutron star binary system. Piro’s theoretical work provided crucial context for the discovery. Their findings are published by Science.

Observations made by the Caltech team—including lead author Kishalay De and project principal investigator Mansi Kasliwal (herself a former-Carnegie postdoc)—suggest that the dying star had an unseen companion, which gravitationally siphoned away most of the star's mass before it exploded

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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 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 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 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 data for 30 years, using the Precision Doppler technique.  Highlights of this program include the detection of five of the first six exoplanets, the first eccentric planet, the first multiple planet system, the first sub-Saturn mass planet, the first sub-Neptune mass planet, the first terrestrial mass planet, and the first transit planet.Over the course of 30 years we have

 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

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

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

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