Latest News

This year's Astronomy Lecture Series will be held at the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens on Mondays April 3rd, April 17th, May 1st, and May 15th. All lectures are free to the public, but seating is limited and a reservation is a required. For those who cannot attend, there will be live streaming available. All the details can be found at our Lecture Series web site.

Pasadena, CA –The Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO) announces the appointment of physicist Robert N. Shelton to become its president, effective February 20, 2017.

Washington, DC-Renowned astrophysicist and National Medal of Science awardee Vera Rubin passed away in Princeton N.J., the evening of December 25, 2016, at the age of 88. Rubin confirmed the existence of dark matter-the invisble material that makes up more than 90% of the mass of the universe. She was a retired staff astronomer at the Carnegie Institution's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington, D.C.


Artist’s conception shows a star behind a shattered comet.Pasadena, CA— A star known by the unassuming name of KIC 8462852 in the constellation Cygnus has been raising eyebrows both in and outside of the scientific community for the past year. In 2015 a team of astronomers announced that the star underwent a series of very brief, non-periodic dimming events while it was being monitored by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, and no one could quite figure out what caused them. A new study from Carnegie’s Josh Simon and Caltech’s Ben Montet has deepened the mystery.  

Artist's rendition of a quasar and host galaxy.

Pasadena, CA— Quasars are supermassive black holes that sit at the center of enormous galaxies, accreting matter. They shine so brightly that they are often referred to as beacons and are among the most-distant objects in the universe that we can currently study. New work from a team led by Carnegie’s Eduardo Bañados has discovered 63 new quasars from when the universe was only a billion years old. (It’s about 14 billion years old today.)

Image of dark matter simulation compared with observations.Washington, DC— Dwarf galaxies are enigmas wrapped in riddles. Although they are the smallest galaxies, they represent some of the biggest mysteries about our universe. While many dwarf galaxies surround our own Milky Way, there seem to be far too few of them compared with standard cosmological models, which raises a lot of questions about the nature of dark matter and its role in galaxy formation.

An illustration of of the solar "twin" binary with very different planetsWashington, DC— A team of Carnegie scientists has discovered three giant planets in a binary star system composed of stellar ''twins'' that are also effectively siblings of our Sun. One star hosts two planets and the other hosts the third. The system represents the smallest-separation binary in which both stars host planets that has ever been observed. The findings, which may help explain the influence that giant planets like Jupiter have over a solar system’s architecture, have been accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal.

Pasadena, CA—An international team of astronomers, including Carnegie’s Eric Persson, has charted the rise and fall of galaxies over 90 percent of cosmic history. Their work, which includes some of the most sensitive astronomical measurements made to date, is published by The Astrophysical Journal.  

Johanna Teske in front of Magellan telescope.

Johanna Teske was awarded the third Postdoctoral Innovation and Excellence (PIE) Award, which is made through nominations from the department directors and chosen by the Office of the President. She is the first Carnegie Origins Postdoctoral Fellow, the first fellowship in the history of Carnegie Science that straddles two departments, the Observatories and the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism. In just two years, Teske’s efforts to help find and characterize exoplanets, particularly those that might be Earth-like, has generated multiple publications in prestigious journals such as The Astrophysical Journal.

Take a rare look inside a world-class planet finding instrument. In April, our team performed maintenance and upgrades to the Planet Finder Spectrograph, or PFS for short. PFS is an instrument that astronomers use at the Magellan Clay Telescope to find signatures of exoplanets in stellar spectra. The observations are critically dependant on precision, which relies on the stability of the instrument. The PFS team only opens the instrument every few years for maintenance and upgrades, making this an unusual event that we wanted to share.

ImagePasadena, CA—Astronomers have believed since the 1960s that a galaxy dubbed UGC 1382 was a relatively boring, small elliptical galaxy. Ellipticals are the most common type of galaxy and lack the spiral structure of disks like the Milky Way we call home. Now, using a series of multi-wavelength surveys, astronomers, including Carnegie’s Mark Seibert, Barry Madore and Jeff Rich, have discovered that it is really a colossal Giant Low Surface Brightness disk galaxy that rivals the champion of this elusive class—a galaxy known as Malin 1. Malin 1 is some 7 times the diameter of the Milky Way. The research is published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Rachael Beaton and Eduardo BanadosPasadena, CA— The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) has announced that the Carnegie Observatories’ postdoctoral associate Rachael Beaton will receive the 2016 Robert J. Trumpler Award. In addition, the Observatories’ Carnegie-Princeton Fellow Eduardo Bañados received the Otto Hahn Medal from Germany’s Max Planck Society. Beaton’s Trumpler Ward is for a recent Ph.D. thesis “considered unusually important to astronomy.” The Otto Hahn Medal honors young researchers for outstanding scientific achievements. 

Image of extra-solar planetWashington, DC— Brown dwarfs are sometimes called failed stars. They’re stars’ dim, low-mass siblings and they fade in brightness over time. They’re fascinating to astronomers for a variety of reasons, but much about them remains unknown.

Pasadena, CA— Carnegie’s Allan Sandage, who died in 2012, was a tremendously influential figure in the field of astronomy. His final paper, published posthumously, focuses on unraveling a surprising historical mystery related to one of his own seminal discoveries.

While preparing a centennial history of the Carnegie Observatories in the early 2000s, Sandage came across an unpublished 1944 exchange between two prominent astronomers that piqued his interest. The conversation seemed to predate by a decade Sandage’s own work on stellar evolution in the mid-1950s.

Naturally, he wanted to investigate further.

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 interiors or in catastrophic explosions.  However, scientists have disagreed for nearly 60 years about how the heaviest elements, such as gold and lead, are manufactured.  New observations of a tiny galaxy discovered last year show that these heavy elements are likely left over from rare collisions between two neutron stars. The work is published by Nature.

The new galaxy, called Reticulum II because of its location in the southern constellation Reticulum, commonly known as The Net, is one of the smallest and closest to us known.  Its proximity made it a tempting target for a team of astronomers including Carnegie’s Josh Simon, who have been studying the chemical content of nearby galaxies. 

All good things must come to an end. We'll be back at the Huntington for next year's Spring Lecture Series, but for now, if you missed any of the talks, you can view them online by following these links:


Las Campanas Observatory: A Southern Window on the Universe
A Short History of Planet Formation
The Secret Lives of Galaxies

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. Their findings are published in Science.

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 recalibrated for stars that are older than our Sun. This is due to new information about the way older stars spin, as spin rate is one of the few windows into stellar ages. Their findings, published in Nature, have implications for our own Solar System, as they indicate that our own Sun might be on the cusp of a transition in its magnetic field.

Pasadena, CA – November 11, 2015 – Leading scientists, senior officials, and supporters from an international consortium of universities and research institutions are gathering on a remote mountaintop high in the Chilean Andes today to celebrate groundbreaking for the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT). The ceremony marks the commencement of on-site construction of the telescope and its support base. The GMT is poised to become the world’s largest telescope when it begins early operations in 2021. It will produce images ten times sharper than those delivered by the Hubble Space Telescope and will address key questions in cosmology, astrophysics and the study of planets outside our solar system.

Pasadena, CA— Astronomer and instrumentation expert Stephen Shectman of the Carnegie Observatories has been selected to receive the Maria and Eric Muhlmann Award from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, “for important research results based upon development of groundbreaking instruments and techniques.” He will receive the prize in October.

Join us for an afternoon of discovery as we explore the past, present and future of astronomy at the Carnegie Observatories.

Update: We are expecting large numbers this year. Parking is very limited. Please consider taking public transit. The Observatories is a 10 minute walk from the Lake Metro Goldline station. There is ample free parking at the Sierra Madre Villa station. Uber might also be a good option.

This week The Observatories will host astronomers from around the globe for the inaugural Carnegie Symposium in Honor of Leonard Searle. The topic of the meeting is "Understanding Nebular Emission in High-Redshift Galaxies: Massive Stars, Chemical Abundances and Photoionization Models."

With the New Horizons historic flyby of Pluto next week, imagine how excited we were a few weeks ago to unearth a set of plates from 1925 in our vault that include Pluto--five years before Pluto was discovered. This unexpected find led to a bit of historical detective work to uncover the story of these unusual astronomical plates. The short video tells the tale of our digging, and what we learned from it, and highlights the amazing work done by astronomers of an earlier, pre-digital era. You never know what you might find in your own archives!

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’s future and unlocks more than $500 million of work on the world’s most powerful optical telescope.

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—what kind of star system they originate in and how the explosions begin. New work from the intermediate Palomar Transient Factory team of astronomers, including Carnegie’s Mansi Kasliwal, provides strong evidence pointing toward one origin theory, called the single degenerate channel. This work is published May 21 by Nature.

Pasadena, CAJohn 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. He follows in the footsteps of such astronomical giants as George Ellery Hale and Horace Babcock. Mulchaey was appointed acting director in 2014.

Pasadena, CA— 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 ago. The unusual chemical content of the stars may have originated in a single supernova explosion from the first generation of Sculptor stars. The team, which includes Carnegie’s Josh Simon, Ian Thompson, and Stephen Shectman, will publish their work in The Astrophysical Journal on Thursday.

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 the surrounding materials and release a huge amount of their gravitational energy. An international team of astronomers, including Carnegie’s Yuri Beletsky, has discovered the brightest quasar ever found in the early universe, which is powered by the most massive black hole observed for an object from that time. Their work is published February 26 by Nature.

This year's Astronomy Lecture Series will take place at A Noise Within on March 30, April 13, April 27, and May 11. Click here for more information.

Pasadena, CA— Fast radio bursts are quick, bright flashes of radio waves from an unknown source in space. They are a mysterious phenomenon that last only a few milliseconds, and until now they have not been observed in real time. An international team of astronomers, including three from the Carnegie Observatories, has for the first time observed a fast radio burst happening live. Their work is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Washington, D.C.— 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 recognizes “major insights into the deepest questions of the Universe” and is being shared by two research teams, the Supernova Cosmology Project and the High-Z Supernova Search Team, of which Phillips is a member.

Join us for an afternoon of discovery as we explore the past, present and future of astronomy at the Carnegie Observatories.

Pasadena, CA—Quasars are supermassive black holes that live at the center of distant massive galaxies. They shine as the most luminous beacons in the sky across the entire electromagnetic spectrum by rapidly accreting matter into their gravitationally inescapable centers. New work from Carnegie’s Hubble Fellow Yue Shen and Luis Ho of the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics (KIAA) at Peking University solves a quasar mystery that astronomers have been puzzling over for 20 years. Their work, published in the September 11 issue of Nature, shows that most observed quasar phenomena can be unified with two simple quantities: one that describes how efficiently the hole is being fed, and the other that reflects the viewing orientation of the astronomer.

Dr. Wendy Freedman, the Crawford Greenewalt Chair and Director of the Carnegie Observatories will become the first University Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago.  She joins an elite group of only 7 University Professors at Chicago and one of only 20 in the history of the University.

Monday, September 29, 2014  7-9 PM, at
The Carnegie Observatories
813 Santa Barbara Street, Pasadena

AxS ("axis") is a 2-week city-wide festival produced by the Pasadena Arts Council, exploring the nexus of artistic and scientific inquiry and promoting cross-fertilization between these disciplines.  The theme of the 2014 Festival is "Curiosity" - the interplay between human curiosity, scientific investigation and artistic endeavor that also illuminates the diversity and innovation of human achievement in the 21st century.

Pasadena, 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 by tendrils of hydrogen and helium, which can be used as a precise “light meter.” In a recent study published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, a team of scientists finds that the light from known populations of galaxies and quasars is not nearly enough to explain observations of intergalactic hydrogen. The difference is a stunning 400 percent.

Washington, D.C.— An international team of astronomers, including five Carnegie scientists, reports the discovery of two new planets orbiting a very old star that is near to our own Sun. One of these planets orbits the star at the right distance to allow liquid water to exist on its surface, a key ingredient to support life. Their work is published by Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and available online here.

Pasadena, CA—Wolf-Rayet stars are very large and very hot. Astronomers have long wondered whether Wolf-Rayet stars are the progenitors of certain types of supernovae. New work from the Palomar Transient Factory team, including Carnegie’s Mansi Kasliwal, is homing in on the answer. They have identified a Wolf-Rayet star as the likely progenitor of a recently exploded supernova. This work is published byNature.

Pasadena, CA— The structures and star populations of massive galaxies appear to change as they age, but much about how these galaxies formed and evolved remains mysterious. Many of the oldest and most massive galaxies reside in clusters, enormous structures where numerous galaxies are found concentrated together. Galaxy clusters in the early universe are thought to be key to understanding the lifecycles of old galaxies, but to date astronomers have located only a handful of these rare, distant structures.

New research from a team led by Carnegie’s Andrew Newman has confirmed the presence of an unusually distant galaxy cluster, JKCS 041. It is published by The Astrophysical Journal.

Pasadena, CA— New work from a team of scientists including Carnegie’s Josh Simon analyzed the chemical elements in the faintest known galaxy, called Segue 1, and determined that it is effectively a fossil galaxy left over from the early universe.

Pasadena, CA— Astronomer and instrumentation expert Stephen Shectman of the Carnegie Observatories has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Shectman investigates the large-scale structure of the distribution of galaxies; searches for ancient stars; develops novel and creative astronomical instruments; and constructs large telescopes.

Pasadena, CA— Some galaxies grew up in a hurry. Most of the galaxies that have been observed from the early days of the universe were young and actively forming stars. Now, an international team of astronomers, including Carnegie’s Eric Persson and Andy Monson, have discovered galaxies that were already mature and massive in the early days. Fifteen mature galaxies were found at a record-breaking average distance of 12 billion light years, when the universe was just 1.6 billion years old. Their existence at such an early time raises new questions about what forced them to grow up so quickly. The finding is published by The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Pasadena, CA–The international consortium of the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) project has passed two major reviews and is positioned to enter the construction phase. When completed, the 25-meter GMT will have more than six times the collecting area of the largest telescopes today and ten times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Pasadena, CA— Astronomers, including Carnegie’s Yuri Beletsky, took precise measurements of the closest pair of failed stars to the Sun, which suggest that the system harbors a third, planetary-mass object.The research is published as a letter to the editor in Astronomy & Astrophysics available online at

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 new stripped-envelope supernova, named iPTF13bvn, to the star from which it exploded. The iPTF team also pinpointed the first afterglow of an explosion called a gamma-ray burst that was found by the Fermi satellite. Their work will be published by Astrophysical Journal Letters in two papers led by Yi Cao and Leo Singer, both of the California Institute of Technology.

On Saturday Aug. 24th, the Stewart Observatory Mirror Lab began casting the third of seven 8.4-meter mirrors that will ultimately comprise the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT). Upon completion in 2020, the GMT will be one of the largest optical telesocopes on Earth.

Pasadena, CA— A team of astronomers from three institutions has developed a new type of telescope camera that makes higher resolution images than ever before, the culmination of 20 years of effort. The team has been developing this technology at telescope observatories in Arizona and now has deployed the latest version of these cameras in the high desert of Chile at the Magellan 6.5m (21 foot) telescope. Carnegie’s Alan Uomoto and Tyson Hare, joined by a team of researchers from the University of Arizona and Arcetri Observatory in Italy, will publish three papers containing the highest-resolution images ever taken, as well as observations that answer questions about planetary formation, in The Astrophysical Journal.

Pasadena, CA— Blazars are the brightest of active galactic nuclei, and many emit very high-energy gamma rays. New observations of a blazar known as PKS 1424+240 show that it is the most-distant known source of very high-energy gamma rays. But its emission spectrum appears highly unusual.
A team including Carnegie’s Michele Fumagalli used data from the Hubble Space Telescope to set a lower limit for the blazar's redshift (z ≥ 0.6035). An object’s redshift value is a measurement of how much the wavelength of the light from it that reaches Earth is stretched by the expansion of the Universe. Thus, it reveals the object’s age and distance. This blazar’s redshift corresponds to a distance of at least 7.4 billion light-years. Their work will be published by The Astrophysical Journal Letters and is available online.

Pasadena, CA— Supernovae were always thought to occur in two main varieties. But a team of astronomers including Carnegie’s Wendy Freedman, Mark Phillips and Eric Persson is reporting the discovery of a new type of supernova called Type Iax. This research has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal and is available online.


Pasadena, CA — Using information gathered from several telescopes, a team of astronomers, including Carnegie’s Eric Murphy, searched the sky for very rarely seen dusty starburst galaxies, formed soon after the Big Bang. These galaxies are characterized by an unusually high rate of star formation. They are much more abundant in the early Universe than previously thought. Two of those identified are among the oldest ever found, indicating that these dusty starbursts likely evolve into the most massive galaxies ever observed in the local Universe. The results are published online March 13 by Nature.

Pasadena, CA—For only the second time in history, a team of scientists--including Carnegie's Michele Fumagalli--have discovered an extremely rare triple quasar system. Their work is published by Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. It is available online.

Pasadena, CA— A team of astronomers including Carnegie’s Ian Thompson have managed to improve the measurement of the distance to our nearest neighbor galaxy and, in the process, refine an astronomical calculation that helps measure the expansion of the universe. Their work is published March 7 by Nature. 

Pasadena, CA—Type II supernovae are formed when massive stars collapse, initiating giant explosions. It is thought that stars emit a burst of mass as a precursor to the supernova explosion. If this process were better understood, it could be used to predict and study supernova events in their earliest stages. New observations from a team of astronomers including Carnegie's Mansi Kasliwal show a remarkable mass-loss event about a month before the explosion of a type IIn supernova. Their work is published on February 7 in Nature.

Pasadena, CA— A team of astronomers including Carnegie’s Daniel Kelson have set a new distance record for finding the farthest galaxy yet seen in the universe. By combining the power of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, and one of nature's own natural "zoom lenses" in space, they found a galaxy whose light traveled 13.3 billion years to reach Earth. Their work will be published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Washington, D.C.—Scientists with the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization have completed the most challenging large astronomical mirror ever made. The mirror will be part of the 25-meter Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), which will explore planets around other stars and the formation of stars, galaxies and black holes in the early universe.

Pasadena, CA— A team of astronomers, led by Wendy Freedman, director of the Carnegie Observatories, have used NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to make one of the most accurate and precise measurement yet of the Hubble constant, a fundamental quantity that measures the current rate at which our universe is expanding. These results will be published in The Astrophysical Journal and are available online.

Pasadena, CA— With the combined power of NASA's Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes, as well as a cosmic magnification effect, a team of astronomers, including Carnegie’s Daniel Kelson, have spotted what could be the most distant galaxy ever seen. Light from the young galaxy captured by the orbiting observatories was emitted when our 13.7-billion-year-old universe was just 500 million years old. Their work is published September 20 by Nature.

The Observatories is proud to announce that three of the 2012 Astronomy Lectures Series talks given at the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens has been made available to the public via Carnegie's YouTube channel.  The audio was recorded by the Hungtington and paired with video created using the actual slides shown during the talks.  All talks can be found here.

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 explosions happen. New research from a team led by Harvard University and including Carnegie’s Josh Simon, Chris Burns, Nidia Morrell, and Mark Phillips examined 23 Type Ia supernovae and helped identify the formation process for at least some of them. Their work will be published in The Astrophysical Journal and is available online.

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. Astronomers analyze starlight to determine the chemical makeup of stars, the origin of the elements, the ages of stars, and the evolution of galaxies and the universe. Now for the first time, astronomers have detected the presence of arsenic and selenium, neighboring elements near the middle of the periodic table, in an ancient star in the faint stellar halo that surrounds the Milky Way. Arsenic and selenium are elements at the transition from light to heavy element production, and have not been found in old stars until now.

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 opportunity. The partners in the project feel that they are making such rapid progress that they have chosen to press ahead at full speed, looking to link up with the NSF at a later date when the needs of both organizations are better aligned. With nearly half of the $700M needed to build the observatory committed, the partners are confident that they will complete the telescope.

Pasadena, CA--Astronomers have begun to blast 3 million cubic feet of rock from a mountaintop in the Chilean Andes to make room for what will be the world’s largest telescope when completed near the end of the decade.

The telescope will be located at the Carnegie Institution’s Las Campanas Observatory—one of the world’s premier astronomical sites, known for its pristine conditions and clear, dark skies. Over the next few months, more than 70 controlled blasts will break up the rock while leaving a solid bedrock foundation for the telescope and its precision scientific instruments.

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. The galaxy cluster is located 10.5 billion light years away in the direction of the constellation Leo. It is made up of 30 galaxies packed closely together, forming the earliest known “galaxy city” in the universe. The findings will be published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Washington, D.C.— An international team of scientists led by Carnegie’s Guillem Anglada-Escudé and Paul Butler and including the Observatories' Jeffrey Crane, Stephen Shectman, and Ian Thompson has discovered a potentially habitable super-Earth orbiting a nearby star. The star is a member of a triple star system and has a different makeup than our Sun, being relatively lacking in metallic elements. This discovery demonstrates that habitable planets could form in a greater variety of environments than previously believed.

The second of seven mirrors for the Giant Magellan Telescope has been cast at the Stewart Observatory Mirror Lab.  NPR's Joe Palca reported on the mirror casting and the challenges faced by engineers in shaping these "aspherical" mirrors.  You can listen to the news piece by visiting this link.

March 12, March 26, April 16, and April 30 2012.
Each year the Observatories organizes a series of public lectures on current astronomical topics.  These lectures are given by astronomers from the Carnegie Observatories as well as other research institutions.  The lectures are geared to the general public and are free.  More information can be found here.

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 Steward Observatory Mirror Lab (SOML) underneath the campus football stadium. The Mirror Lab will host a special event to highlight the milestone of creating the optics for the Giant Magellan Telescope. The Carnegie Institution is a founding member of the GMTO partnership.*

Pasadena, CA— A team of scientists, including Carnegie’s Mansi M. Kasliwal, has observed the early stages of a Type Ia supernova that is only 21 million light years away from Earth--the closest of its kind discovered in 25 years. The Palomar Transient Factory team’s detection of a supernova less than half a day after it exploded will refine and challenge our understanding of these stellar phenomena. Their breakthrough observations are published December 15 in Nature.

Pasadena, CA-Join a discussion with leading astronomers about how one of the world’s largest telescopes, the Giant Magellan Telescope, will help solve some of the most vexing problems in astronomy today—from the nature of dark energy and dark matter to finding signatures of life on other planets. The event will take place November 20, 2011, at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, 2025 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles, CA, from 1 to 5 PM. Tickets are $15 and include light refreshments. Journalists who register are admitted free.

Pasadena, CA— A team of scientists, led by Michael Rauch from the Carnegie Observatories, has discovered a distant galaxy that may help elucidate two fundamental questions of galaxy formation: How galaxies take in matter and how they give off energetic radiation. Their work will be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Pasadena, CA— Water really is everywhere. A team of astronomers have found the largest and farthest reservoir of water ever detected in the universe—discovered in the central regions of a distant quasar. Quasars contain massive black holes that are steadily consuming a surrounding disk of gas and dust; as it eats, the quasar spews out huge amounts of energy. The energy from this particular quasar was released some 12 billion years ago, only 1.6 billion years after the Big Bang and long before most of the stars in the disk of our Milky Way galaxy began forming.

Pasadena, CA- George P. Mitchell, founder of Mitchell Energy & Development Corp. and The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, has committed an unprecedented $25-million gift to the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) project. Half of the gift, $12.5 million, has been donated to the Carnegie Institution for Science and half to Texas A&M University, Mitchell’s alma mater. Carnegie and Texas A&M are two of the GMT’s 10 partners.* The gift will help support the GMT during the next five years.

Video Press Release

Pasadena, CA— Astronomers have pushed NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to it limits by finding what they believe to be the most distant object ever seen in the universe—at a distance of 13.2 billion light years, some 3% of the age of universe. This places the object roughly 150 million light years more distant than the previous record holder. The observations provide the best insights yet into the birth of the first stars and galaxies and the evolution of the universe. The research is published in the 27th January edition of Nature.

Washington, D.C.—Carnegie Observatories director Wendy Freedman has been selected as an AAAS Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The announcement will appear Jan. 11 on the AAAS website and will be published in the “AAAS News & Notes” section of Science on Jan. 28.

Pasadena, CA— Allan R. Sandage, Edwin Hubble’s former observing assistant and one of the most prominent astronomers of the last century, died November 13, 2010, at home in San Gabriel, California, of pancreatic cancer.

The Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO) Corporation is pleased to announce that the University of Chicago has joined the partnership that will construct the 25-meter Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), a state of the art astronomical observatory. The GMT will be used to address fundamental questions in cosmology and astrophysics and to explore worlds around other stars.

Leonard Searle, astronomer and director emeritus of Carnegie Observatories, died at his home on July 2, 2010, in Pasadena, CA, in the midst of a busy retirement that followed a long, distinguished scientific career.

Distant galaxy cluster

Video Press Release
A team of astronomers including Ivelina Momcheva of the Carnegie Observatories has discovered the most distant cluster of galaxies ever found. In a surprising twist, the young cluster born just 2.8 billion years after the Big Bang appears remarkably similar to the much older present-day galaxy clusters.

Washington, D.C. At its annual May meeting, the Carnegie Institution for Science board of trustees enthusiastically endorsed the construction of the proposed Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT). The GMT will be the first in the next generation of astronomical observatories that will drive new scientific discoveries. The Carnegie board authorized President Richard A. Meserve to state the institution’s commitment of $59.2 million for the design, construction, and commissioning of the telescope to supplement the $19.9 million that Carnegie has already committed to the project. At this time more that 40% of the total funding required to construct the GMT has been committed by the Founding Institutions. It is the board’s hope and expectation that the other partners in the project will soon commit the remainder of the funds that will allow the telescope to be brought into service.

Artists's conception

Video Press Release
A newly discovered star outside the Milky Way has yielded important clues about the evolution of our galaxy. Located in the dwarf galaxy Sculptor some 280,000 light-years away, the star has a chemical make-up similar to the Milky Way’s oldest stars, supporting theories that our galaxy grew by absorbing dwarf galaxies and other galactic building blocks.

Optical image of binary quasar

Video Press Release

Pasadena, CA— Astronomers have found the first clear evidence of a binary quasar within a pair of actively merging galaxies. Quasars are the extremely bright centers of galaxies surrounding super-massive black holes, and binary quasars are pairs of quasars bound together by gravity. Binary quasars, like other quasars, are thought to be the product of galaxy mergers. Until now, however, binary quasars have not been seen in galaxies that are unambiguously in the act of merging.  But images of a new binary quasar from the Carnegie Institution’s Magellan telescope in Chile show two distinct galaxies with “tails” produced by tidal forces from their mutual gravitational attraction.

Pasadena, CA—Astronomers, using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, have broken the distance limit for galaxies by uncovering a primordial population of compact and ultra-blue galaxies that have never been seen before. They are from 13 billion years ago, just 600 to 800 million years after the Big Bang. 

Pasadena, CA—Astronomers, conducting the broadest survey to date of galaxies from about 800 million years after the Big Bang, have found 22 early galaxies and confirmed the age of one by its characteristic hydrogen signature at 787 million years post Big Bang. The finding is the first age-confirmation of a so-called dropout galaxy at that distant time and pinpoints when an era called the reionization epoch likely began. The research will be published in a December issue of the Astrophysical Journal.     

 The Carnegie-founded Mt. Wilson Observatory was home to the most important astronomical discoveries of the 20th century. Carnegie astronomer Edwin Hubble shattered our old concepts of the universe with his discoveries that there are galaxies other than the Milky Way and that universe is expanding.

Pasadena, CA-The Australian government has announced that it will provide $88.4 million AUD ($72.4 million USD) to help fund the revolutionary 25-meter Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) to be sited at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile’s high-altitude Atacama Desert.

Pasadena, CA—The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation awarded the 2009 Cosmology Prize to Carnegie’s Wendy Freedman; Robert Kennicutt of the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge; and Jeremy Mould at the University of Melbourne School of Physics. The prize is for their work defining the Hubble constant—the rate at which the universe is expanding.

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Pasadena, CA —Using information from a suite of telescopes, astronomers have discovered a mysterious, giant object that existed at a time when the universe was only about 800 million years old. Objects such as this one are dubbed extended Lyman-Alpha blobs; they are huge bodies of gas that may be precursors to galaxies. This blob was named Himiko for a legendary, mysterious Japanese queen. It stretches for 55 thousand light years, a record for that early point in time. That length is comparable to the radius of the Milky Way’s disk.

100 Hours of Astronomy (100HA) is a worldwide celebration to involving the public in the excitement of astronomy. It will take place from April 2 to 5 2009. More than 1,000,000 people are expected to participate! The webcast from Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory, to be hosted by Dr. David Osip, a scientist working on the twin 6.5-meter Magellan telescopes.

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Pasadena, CAEvidence of star birth within a cloud of primordial gas has given astronomers a glimpse of a previously unknown mode of galaxy formation. The cloud, known as the Leo Ring, appears to lack the dark matter and heavy elements normally found in galaxies today. The unexpected discovery comes thanks to instruments aboard NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) spacecraft which are sensitive to the ultraviolet radiation emitted by newly formed stars. 

Washington, D.C.In recent years researchers have found hundreds of new planets beyond our solar system, raising questions about the origins and properties of these exotic worlds—not to mention the possible presence of life.

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Pasadena, CA-The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) Corporation is pleased to announce that nine astronomical research organizations from three continents have signed the Founders’ Agreement to construct and operate the 25-meter Giant Magellan Telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in the Andes Mountains of Chile. In the United States the participating institutions are the Carnegie Institution for Science, Harvard University, the Smithsonian Institution, Texas A& M University, the University of Arizona, and the University of Texas at Austin. The two Australian members of the Founders group are the Australian National University and Astronomy Australia Limited. Most recently, the South Korean government has approved participation in the GMT project, with the Korean Astronomy and Space Science Institute as the representative of the Korean astronomical community.

Pasadena, CA- Dr. George W. Preston of the Carnegie Observatories has been selected by the American Astronomical Society to be the 2009 recipient of its highest distinction: the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship. The Russell Lectureship is awarded each year in recognition of a lifetime of excellence in astronomical research. Preston will deliver the lecture at the 2009 winter meeting of the AAS in Washington, D.C.

 Pasadena, CA In the early part of the 20th Century, Carnegie astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe is expanding. The rate of expansion is known as the Hubble constant. Its precise value has been hotly debated for all of the 80 intervening years. The value of the Hubble constant is a key ingredient in determining the age and size of the universe. In 2001, as part of the Hubble Space Telescope Key Project, a team of astronomers led by Carnegie’s Wendy Freedman determined precision distances to individual far-off galaxies and used them to determine that the universe is expanding at the rate of 72 kilometers per second per megaparsec.

Pasadena, CA. Astronomers have seen the aftermath of spectacular stellar explosions known as supernovae before, but until now no one has witnessed a star dying in real time. While looking at another object in the spiral galaxy NGC 2770, using NASA’s orbiting Swift telescope, Carnegie-Princeton fellows* Alicia Soderberg and Edo Berger detected an extremely luminous blast of X-rays released by a supernova explosion. They alerted 8 other orbiting and on-ground telescopes to turn their eyes on this first-of-its-kind event.

Co-authors Mark Seibert and Barry Madore of the Observatories are part of team that has produced a stunning new image showing infant stars growing in a remote area of galaxy M83.

Pasadena, CA—The Royal Astronomical Society has awarded Stephen Shectman of the Carnegie Observatories the 2008 Jackson-Gwilt Medal for his exceptional work in developing astronomical instrumentation and in constructing telescopes.