Astronomy Stories
The Magellan telescopes at LCO by Yuri Beletsky.
Pasadena, CA— The universe is full of billions of galaxies—but their distribution across space is far from uniform. Why do we see so much structure in the universe today and how did it...
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Caltech logo
The Carnegie Institution for Science is consolidating our California research departments into an expanded presence in Pasadena. With this move, we are building on our existing relationship with...
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 Illustration of DS Tuc AB by M. Weiss, CfA.
Pasadena, CA— A new kind of astronomical observation helped reveal the possible evolutionary history of a baby Neptune-like exoplanet. To study a very young planet called DS Tuc Ab, a Harvard...
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John Mulchaey
Pasadena, CA—John Mulchaey, Director and Crawford H. Greenewalt Chair of the Carnegie Observatories, was presented with a Humanitarian STAR Award by the honor...
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Washington, DC— Carnegie astronomers Stephen Shectman and Alycia Weinberger were selected for the inaugural class of Fellows of the American Astronomical Society in recognition of their “...
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Vera Rubin, courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science
Washington, DC— The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and its joint funding agencies, the National Science Foundation and Department of Energy, announced Monday that it will be renamed the Vera C...
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Illustration by James Josephides, courtesy of Swinburne Astronomy Productions.
Pasadena, CA—A star traveling at ultrafast speeds after being ejected by the supermassive black hole at the heart of our galaxy was spotted by an international team of astronomers including...
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Ancient gas cloud courtesy of the Max Planck Society.
Washington, DC— The discovery of a 13 billion-year-old cosmic cloud of gas enabled a team of Carnegie astronomers to perform the earliest-ever measurement of how the universe was enriched with...
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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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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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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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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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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...
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Guillermo Blanc wants to understand the processes by which galaxies form and evolve over the course of the history of the universe. He studies local galaxies in the “present day” universe as well as very distant and therefore older galaxies to observe the early epochs of galaxy...
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Detection of a supernova with an unusual chemical signature by a team of astronomers led by Carnegie’s Juna Kollmeier—and including Carnegie’s Nidia Morrell, Anthony Piro, Mark...
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Washington, D.C.— Quasars--supermassive black holes found at the center of distant massive galaxies--are the most-luminous beacons in the sky. These central supermassive black holes actively accrete...
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Pasadena, CA—Pomona College junior and returning Carnegie Observatories intern Sal Fu was awarded a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship in recognition of her academic and research success...
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Alan Boss
January 14, 2022

Washington, DC— Carnegie’s Alan Boss was named one of 23 new Fellows of the American Astronomical Society. The honorees were chosen for their “extraordinary achievement and service” to the field.

Boss, whose contributions to the fields of astronomy and astrophysics are numerous, was specifically recognized for “innovative theoretical investigations of the formation of stars and exoplanets” as well as “tireless leadership within the exoplanet exploration community in ensuring that NASA executes a credible and successful exoplanet program.”

The AAS fellowship program began in 2020 and its members include professional astronomers

Mars mosaic courtesy of NASA.
January 13, 2022

Washington, DC—Organic molecules found in a meteorite that hurtled to Earth from Mars were synthesized during interactions between water and rocks that occurred on the Red Planet about 4 billion years ago, according to new analysis led by Carnegie’s Andrew Steele and published by Science.  

The meteorite, called Allan Hills (ALH) 84001, was discovered in the Antarctic in 1984 and is considered one of the oldest known projectiles to reach Earth from Mars.  

“Analyzing the origin of the meteorite’s minerals can serve as a window to reveal both the geochemical processes occurring early in Earth’s history and Mars’ potential for

Milky Way and stellar streams, Credit: James osephides and S5 Collaboration.
January 11, 2022

Pasadena CA—A new map of a dozen associations of moving stars—called stellar streams—orbiting within the Milky Way’s halo has brought astronomers one step closer to revealing the properties of the dark matter enveloping our galaxy and shaping the universe.  Accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal, the map was produced by an international collaboration of astronomers, including several current and former Carnegie scientists.

“Stellar streams are the shredded remains of neighboring small galaxies and star clusters that are torn apart by the Milky Way,” explained Carnegie’s Josh Simon, a co-author on the paper. “These

Artist conception. Credit: NASA GSFC/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez
December 23, 2021

Washington, DC—A a perfect seasonal gift to astronomers around the world—the James Webb Space Telescope successfully launched on the morning of December 25.  This next-generation space telescope will drive a new era of discovery—with capabilities that will complement the upcoming era of extremely large ground-based telescopes, including the Giant Magellan Telescope under construction at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.

Several Carnegie astronomers will be among the first to lead projects using data from JWST observations. Their planned investigations will span the breadth of expertise at our Observatories and Earth and Planets Laboratory

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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 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 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 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 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

Looking far into space is looking back in time. Staff astronomer emeritus Alan Dressler began his career at Carnegie some years ago as a Carnegie Fellow. Today, he and colleagues use Magellan and the Hubble Space Telescope to study galaxy evolution—how galaxy structures and shapes change, the pace and character of star birth, and how large galaxies form from earlier, smaller systems.

Dressler is also intricately involved in instrumentation. He led the effort for the Inamori Magellan Areal Spectrogrph (IMACS), a wide-field imager and multi-object spectrograph which became operational in 2003 on the Baade telescope at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory. Spectrographs

Ana Bonaca is Staff Member at Carnegie Observatories. Her specialty is stellar dynamics and her research aims to uncover the structure and evolution of our galaxy, the Milky Way, especially the dark matter halo that surrounds it. In her research, she uses space- and ground-based telescopes to measure the motions of stars, and constructs numerical experiments to discover how dark matter affected them.

She arrived in September 2021 from Harvard University where she held a prestigious Institute for Theory and Computation Fellowship. 

Bonaca studies how the uneven pull of our galaxy’s gravity affects objects called globular clusters—spheres made up of a million

Juna Kollmeier’s research is an unusual combination—she is as observationally-oriented theorist making predictions that can be compared to current and future observations. Her primary focus is on the emergence of structure in the universe. She combines cosmological hydrodynamic simulations and analytic theory to figure out how the tiny fluctuations in density that were present when the universe was only 300 thousand years old, become the galaxies and black holes that we see now, after 14 billion years of cosmic evolution. 

 She has a three-pronged approach to unravelling the mysteries of the universe. On the largest scales, she studies the intergalactic

Like some other Carnegie astronomers, staff associate Jeffrey Crane blends science with technology. His primary interests are instrumentation, the Milky Way and the neighboring Local Group of galaxies, in addition to extrasolar planets. In 2004, then-research associate Crane joined Steve Shectman, Ian Thompson, and the Carnegie team to design the Planet Finder Spectrograph (PFS), now installed and operational on the Magellan Clay telescope.

Radial velocities are the speeds and directions of stars moving away from or toward the Earth.  Extrasolar planet hunters use them to detect the telltale wobbles of stars that are gravitationally tugged by orbiting planets. Astronomical