Astronomy Stories
Dr. John Mulchaey Staff Scientist Carnegie Observatories 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,...
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Pasadena, CA— The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) has passed a major milestone as 11 international partners—including Carnegie—approved its construction, which secures the project...
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Pasadena, CA— Type Ia supernovae are violent stellar explosions that shine as some of the brightest objects in the universe. But there are still many mysteries surrounding their origin—...
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Type Ia supernovae are violent stellar explosions that shine as some of the brightest objects in the universe. But there are still many mysteries surrounding their origin—what kind of star...
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Two nights ago, for the first time in history, astronomers from University of Arizona and Carnegie's Yuri Beletsky at Las Campanas Observatory used the Clay Magellan telescope together with...
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Pasadena, CA- John Mulchaey has been appointed the new Crawford H. Greenewalt Director of the Carnegie Observatories. He is the eleventh director of the historic department, which was founded in 1904...
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Carnegie's John Mulchaey talks to NPR's Morning Edition about Edwin Hubble's work at the Mount Wilson Obeservatory and his famous Andromeda plates....
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A Carnegie-based search of nearby galaxies for their oldest stars has uncovered two stars in the Sculptor dwarf galaxy that were born shortly after the galaxy formed, approximately 13 billion years...
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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...
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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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Scott Sheppard studies the dynamical and physical properties of small bodies in our Solar System, such as asteroids, comets, moons and trans-neptunian objects (bodies that orbit beyond Neptune).  These objects have a fossilized imprint from the formation and migration of the major planets in...
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While the planets in our Solar System are astonishingly diverse, all of them move around the Sun in approximately the same orbital plane, in the same direction, and primarily in circular orbits. Over the past 25 years Butler's work has focused on improving the measurement precision of stellar...
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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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Washington, D.C.—On January 14, 2012, the second 8.4-meter (27.6 ft) diameter mirror for the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) will be cast inside a rotating furnace at the University of Arizona’s...
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Pasadena, CA—The Big Bang produced lots of hydrogen and helium and a smidgen of lithium. All heavier elements found on the periodic table have been produced by stars over the last 13.7 billion years...
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Pasadena, CA—Type Ia supernovae are important stellar phenomena, used to measure the expansion of the universe. But astronomers know embarrassingly little about the stars they come from and how the...
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Decker French
July 24, 2019

Pasadena, CA— Carnegie’s K. Decker French was recognized by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific with its Robert J. Trumpler Award, which is presented to a recent Ph.D. graduate “whose research is considered unusually important to astronomy.” French completed her doctorate at the University of Arizona Tucson in 2017 and is currently a Hubble Fellow at the Carnegie Observatories.

Her research focuses on a radio survey of the gas clouds within galaxies that have recently ended the star-forming phase of their evolution.  The lack of star formation in these galaxies has long been assumed to be caused by a depletion of the cold, dense molecular gases

Vera measuring spectra with DTM measuring engine, courtesy of Carnegie Science.
July 24, 2019

Washington, DC—The House approved yesterday a bill to name the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope in honor of late Carnegie scientist Vera Rubin, who confirmed the existence of dark matter.

Rubin received the National Medal of Science for her research on how stars orbit their galactic centers. She revealed that stars at varying distances from the center of a spiral galaxy orbit at the same speed, rather than at decreasing speeds away from the center, providing undeniable evidence that each galaxy is embedded in a halo of dark matter holding its mass together.

She died in December 2016.

“Vera demonstrated intellectual courage and a tireless commitment to

An image of the Hubble Space Telescope floating against the background of space courtesy of NASA.
July 16, 2019

Pasadena, CA—A team of collaborators from Carnegie and the University of Chicago used red giant stars that were observed by the Hubble Space Telescope to make an entirely new measurement of how fast the universe is expanding, throwing their hats into the ring of a hotly contested debate. Their result—which falls squarely between the two previous, competing values—will be published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Nearly a century ago, Carnegie astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe has been growing continuously since it exploded into being during the Big Bang. But precisely how fast it’s moving—a value termed the Hubble constant in his

This cartoon courtesy of Anthony Piro illustrates three possibilities for the origin of the mysterious hydrogen emissions from the Type IA supernova called ASASSN-18tb that were observed by the Carnegie astronomers.
May 7, 2019

Pasadena, CA—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 Phillips, and Josh Simon—may hold the key to solving the longstanding mystery that is the source of these violent explosions. Observations taken by the Magellan telescopes at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile were crucial to detecting the emission of hydrogen that makes this supernova, called ASASSN-18tb, so distinctive.   

Their work is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Type Ia supernovae play a

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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 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 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

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 center of mass of the system. With over eight years of CAPSCam data, they are beginning to see likely true astrometric wobbles beginning to appear. The CAPSCam planet search effort is on the verge of yielding a harvest of astrometrically discovered planets, as well as accurate parallactic distances to many young stars and M dwarfs. For more see  http://instrumentation.obs.carnegiescience.edu/

Alycia Weinberger wants to understand how planets form, so she observes young stars in our galaxy and their disks, from which planets are born. She also looks for and studies planetary systems.

Studying disks surrounding nearby stars help us determine the necessary conditions for planet formation. Young disks contain the raw materials for building planets and the ultimate architecture of planetary systems depends on how these raw materials are distributed, what the balance of different elements and ices is within the gas and dust, and how fast the disks dissipate.

Weinberger uses a variety of observational techniques and facilities, particularly ultra-high spatial-

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

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 of stars in the solar neighborhood with the same types of stars found in the clusters. However, these measurements have systematic errors, which limit the determination of cluster ages and distances.

 Ian Thompson has a different approach to the problem: using observations of exceedingly rare Detached Eclipsing Binary stars. These systems have two separated stars orbiting each

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 compositions sketch the history of element formation in the galaxy. These earliest stars are very rare and they are characteristically low in heavy metals because of their age. They were made of Big Bang material, mostly hydrogen and helium. It was only later that heavier elements were formed in the nuclear furnaces of newer stars.

 In their first study, Preston and Shectman compiled a