February 13, 2016

Photo Essay: Gazing Beyond the Stars at Carnegie Observatories

You might not think of Southern California as very...well, extraplanetary...but you've got to remember that some of the biggest space discoveries have been made here.

Sure, Albert Einstein's theory of gravitational waves wasn't proven here; but the studies were funded, in part, by our own CalTech, where Einstein himself was a visiting professor.

We had Einstein, and we had George Ellery Hale and Edwin Powell Hubble.

It was here in Southern California that the Mars Rover was successfully launched, galaxies beyond our own were discovered, and dwarf stars and planets were spotted (ultimately leading to the de-declaration of Pluto as a planet).

That's why it's so important that The Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena (which was founded by Hale) is still devoted to research after more than a century—and not any particular type of space research, but all types.

After all, the study of the cosmos is, as they say, the study of everything. Here, the sky isn't the limit. The final frontier is the limit—wherever that ends.

Historically, astronomers from the Carnegie Institution have measured the age of the universe and discovered dark matter.

Now, between their original 1912 facility and 1960s annex in Pasadena, a scientist might be developing a new instrument or studying the history of the early universe.

Carnegie Observatories' Hale Library is an important repository of historical artifacts from the early study of space, including the second-largest single institution collection of photographic plates.

Among their 200,000+ plates, they've got images of nebulae, stars, star clusters, and whirlpool, pinwheel, sunflower, and needle galaxies.  They've even got an impressive collection of solar plates—including one created by Hale in his Chicago backyard in 1894—as well as glass plate images of the moon from 1919 and of Andromeda from 1924, created by Hubble.

While history is certainly important at Carnegie Observatories... is very much an active facility...

...where they are manufacturing telescopes and their components...

...and making lots of other equipment in their Machine Shop.

Most recently, Carnegie scientists at their Las Campanas Observatory in Chile were able to confirm the existence of the most-luminous ever supernova; and in the future, their Giant Magellan Telescope Project will erect one of the world's largest (and the most powerful) telescopes.

When it's finally commissioned (in 2011-12), it'll help scientists understand the formation of stars and the growth of black holes.

And after that...who knows?

poster images courtesy of JPL

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Mt. Wilson & Observatory
Intergalactic Reflections at Mount Wilson's 100-Inch Telescope
Photo Essay: Getting Interstellar at NASA's Top Secret Goldstone Deep Space Complex
Photo Essay: Where Old Meets New at Caltech

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