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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 "Blue Snowball" planetary nebula, courtesy of Eric Hsiao.
Pasadena, CA—An unusual stellar explosion is shining new light on the origins of a specific subgroup of Type Ia supernovae. Called LSQ14fmg, the exploding star exhibits certain characteristics...
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Widmanstatten pattern characteristic of iron meteorites, courtesy of Peng Ni.
Washington, DC— Work led by Carnegie’s Peng Ni and Anat Shahar uncovers new details about our Solar System’s oldest planetary objects, which broke apart in long-ago collisions to...
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The du Pont telescope, courtesy Matias del Campo
Pasadena, CA— Filling in the most-significant gaps in our understanding of the universe’s history, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) released Sunday a comprehensive analysis of the...
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Fotografía de Yuri Beletsky, cortesía de la Carnegie Institution for Science.
Pasadena, California— El universo está lleno de miles de millones de galaxias—pero su distribución en el espacio está lejos de ser uniforme. ¿Por qué...
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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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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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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 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...
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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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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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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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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...
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Pasadena, CA —The board of directors of the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO) has informed the National Science Foundation (NSF) that they will not participate in an upcoming funding...
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How far away is that galaxy?  Our entire understanding of the Universe is based on knowing the distances to other galaxies, yet this seemingly-simple question turns out to be fiendishly...
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It’s the celestial equivalent of a horror movie villain—a star that wouldn’t stay dead. An international team of astronomers including Carnegie’s Nick Konidaris and Benjamin...
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 "Blue Snowball" planetary nebula, courtesy of Eric Hsiao.
September 10, 2020

Pasadena, CA—An unusual stellar explosion is shining new light on the origins of a specific subgroup of Type Ia supernovae.

Called LSQ14fmg, the exploding star exhibits certain characteristics that are unlike any other supernova. For example, its brightness increases at an extremely slow rate compared to other Type Ia supernovae. Despite this, it is also one of the brightest explosions in its class.

“Type Ia supernovae are violent, fantastically bright explosions of a white dwarf—the remnant of a star that has exhausted its nuclear fuel—which is part of a binary system with another star,” said Carnegie astronomer Mark Phillips, an expert in

Widmanstatten pattern characteristic of iron meteorites, courtesy of Peng Ni.
August 3, 2020

Washington, DC— Work led by Carnegie’s Peng Ni and Anat Shahar uncovers new details about our Solar System’s oldest planetary objects, which broke apart in long-ago collisions to form iron-rich meteorites.  Their findings reveal that the distinct chemical signatures of these meteorites can be explained by the process of core crystallization in their parent bodies, deepening our understanding of the geochemistry occurring in the Solar System’s youth. They are published by Nature Geoscience.

Many of the meteorites that shot through our planet’s atmosphere and crashed on its surface were once part of larger objects that broke up at some point in our

Phoenix Stellar Stream illustration courtesy of Geraint F. Lewis.
July 29, 2020

Pasadena, CA—A team of astronomers including Carnegie’s Ting Li and Alexander Ji discovered a stellar stream composed of the remnants of an ancient globular cluster that was torn apart by the Milky Way’s gravity 2 billion years ago, when Earth’s most-complex lifeforms were single-celled organisms. This surprising finding, published in Nature, upends conventional wisdom about how these celestial objects form.

Imagine a sphere made up of a million stars bound by gravity and orbiting a galactic core. That’s a globular cluster. The Milky Way is home to about 150 of them, which form a tenuous halo that envelops our galaxy.

But the globular cluster

The du Pont telescope, courtesy Matias del Campo
July 20, 2020

Pasadena, CA— Filling in the most-significant gaps in our understanding of the universe’s history, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) released Sunday a comprehensive analysis of the largest three-dimensional map of the cosmos ever created.

The survey, of which Carnegie is an integral member, has been one of the most successful and influential in the history of astronomy. It operates out of both Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, home of the survey’s original 2.5-meter telescope, and Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, where it uses Carnegie’s du Pont telescope.

The new results come from the extended Baryon Oscillation

October 5, 2020

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

October 28, 2020

One of the most exciting developments in astronomy is the discovery of thousands of planets around stars other than our Sun. But how do these exoplanets form, and why are they so different from those in our own Solar System? Thanks to powerful new telescopes built in large international collaborations, astronomers are now starting to address these age-old questions scientifically.  With the new Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), we can zoom in on the dusty clouds between the stars where new stars and planets are born.  Water and a surprisingly rich variety of organic materials are found. In conversation with Emmy Award-

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 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

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

Galacticus is not a super hero; it’s a super model used to determine the formation and evolution of the galaxies. Developed by Andrew Benson, the George Ellery Hale Distinguished Scholar in Theoretical Astrophysics, it is one of the most advanced models of galaxy formation available.

Rather than building his model around observational data, Benson’s Galacticus relies on known laws of physics and the so-called N-body problem, which predicts the motions of celestial bodies that interact gravitationally in groups. Galacticus’ now an open- source model produces results as stunning 3-D videos.

Some 80% of the matter in the universe cannot be seen. This unseen

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

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 astronomers to accurately measure enormous numbers of distant galaxies. Kelson uses the Magellan 6.5-meter telescopes and high-resolution imaging from the Hubble Space Telescope to study distant galaxies.His observations of their masses, sizes and morphologies allow him to directly measure their stars' aging to infer their formation history. Kelson is the principal investigator of the Carnegie-