Letter from the Director: September 2017

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Astronomy & Cosmology
Letter from the Observatories Director, September 2017.
The 100-inch Hooker telescope at Mount Wilson Observatory, California. Photo by Cynthia Hunt.


Dear Friends,

I hope you had a healthy and happy summer. As with many of you, the highlight of my summer was witnessing the Great American Eclipse on August 21st. Many of our astronomers traveled from Pasadena to locations along the path of totality to view the big event, including Mackay, Idaho, where several of our scientists hosted an Eclipse-viewing party for local schoolchildren and their families. This was the first time I witnessed a total solar eclipse, and it definitely lived up to all expectations. If you missed totality this time, I highly recommend that you try to see a future eclipse. The next one will be on July 2, 2019 in Chile and Argentina, and while our Las Campanas Observatory will be just outside of totality, our headquarters in La Serena will experience over two minutes of darkness. If you can't make it to South America, you'll have another chance here in the United States on April 8, 2024.

Back in Pasadena, we're now looking forward to a landmark anniversary in astronomy. Wednesday, November 1st, will mark the centennial of "first light” for the great 100-inch Hooker telescope on Mt. Wilson. This remarkable instrument launched astrophysics as we know it today:  I truly believe that the 100-inch is the most important telescope of the modern era. It was with this telescope that Carnegie astronomer Edwin Hubble demonstrated the existence of other galaxies and the expansion of the Universe — two discoveries that completely changed our understanding of the universe, and arguably the most important astronomical findings since the work of Galileo over 400 years ago. 

To celebrate the centennial of the 100-inch telescope, we're planning many activities in the Pasadena area. The festivities will start at our 16th annual Open House on Sunday afternoon, October 15th. Our theme this year is "the past, present and future of astronomy" at Carnegie Observatories.  We invite you to learn how our astronomers are building on the legacy of the pioneering work achieved with the 100-inch telescope, and how the next generation of telescopes will open new windows into the universe.  As always, this year's Open House will feature activities for visitors of all ages. 

I'm also pleased to announce a special conference sponsored by Carnegie Observatories and The Huntington Library, "First Light: The Astronomy Century in California, 1917-2017,” on November 17 and 18.  The conference will pair talks on historical discoveries at Mt. Wilson with modern perspectives on related topics — similar to our very popular spring Astronomy Lecture Series at The Huntington. Tickets for the conference go on sale on Sunday, October 1st, at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3075983

Canegie scientists are on the forefront of studying our universe today. As I write this letter, we’re about to issue two press releases based on recent observations at Las Campanas Observatory that I believe may be the most exciting discoveries in the 45 years of the Observatory’s existence. You'll be hearing a lot about these extraordinary results in the coming months. Meanwhile thank you so much for your interest and support of Carnegie Observatories. I’m always delighted to share with you the excitement of the universe around us. 


Dr. John Mulchaey

Crawford H. Greenewalt Chair and Director

Carnegie Observatories