3D spatial distribution of 16 spectroscopically confirmed proto-clusters.

An international team of astronomers grouped in the LAGER consortium (Lyman Alpha Galaxies in the Epoch of Reionization), integrated by Leopoldo Infante, Director of Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory, and postdoctoral researcher Jorge González-López, discovered the most-distant cluster of galaxies, or protocluster, of high density ever observed. This study, published in Nature, opens new avenues for understanding the evolution of high-density regions in the universe and the galaxies that compose them.

Photo of flowering Arabidopsis thaliana purchased from Shutterstock.

Understanding how plants respond to stressful environmental conditions is crucial to developing effective strategies for protecting important agricultural crops from a changing climate. New research led by Carnegie’s Zhiyong Wang, Shouling, Xu, and Yang Bi reveals an important process by which plants switch between amplified and dampened stress responses. “Understanding how plants make cellular decisions by integrating environmental and internal information is important for improving plant resilience and productivity in a changing climate,” Wang concluded. 

Artist's conception of Farfarout. Credit: NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva.

A team of astronomers, including Carnegie’s Scott Sheppard, David Tholen from the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy, and Chad Trujillo from Northern Arizona University have discovered discovered the most distant object ever observed in our Solar System. Officially called 2018 AG37, the object is nicknamed Farfarout for just how far away from the Sun it is orbiting—about 132 AU, where 1 AU is the distance between the Earth and Sun. At that distance, it takes an entire millennium to orbit the Sun.

Illustration of lab-mimicry of exoplanet interiors by Carnegie's Katherine Cain/

New research led by Carnegie’s Yingwei Fei provides a framework for understanding the interiors of super-Earths—rocky exoplanets between 1.5 and 2 times the size of our home planet—which is a prerequisite to assess their potential for habitability.  Planets of this size are among the most abundant in exoplanetary systems. For decades, Carnegie researchers have been leaders at recreating the conditions of planetary interiors by putting small samples of material under immense pressures and high temperatures. But sometimes even these techniques reach their limitations. The he world's most powerful, magnetically-driven pulsed power machine at Sandia National Laboratories enabled a breakthrough.  

Figure from Energy and Environmental Science paper

Palo Alto, CA— What if we could increase a plant’s productivity by modifying the light to which it is exposed?

Vicinity of Tucana II ultra-faint dwarf galaxy. Credit: Anirudh Chiti/MIT.

An MIT-led team of astronomers that includes Carnegie’s Joshua Simon, Lina Necib, and Alexander Ji has discovered an unexpected outer suburb of stars on the distant fringes of the dwarf galaxy Tucana II. Their detection, published by Nature Astronomy, confirms that the cosmos’ oldest galaxies formed inside massive clumps of dark matter—what astronomers refer to as a “dark matter halo”.

A giant star being slowly devoured by a black hole courtesy of NASA Goddard.

In a case of cosmic mistaken identity, an international team of astronomers revealed that what they once thought was a supernova is actually periodic flaring from a galaxy where a supermassive black hole gives off bursts of energy every 114 days as it tears off chunks of an orbiting star. Six years after its initial discovery—reported in The Astronomer’s Telegram by Carnegie’s Thomas Holoien—the researchers, led by Anna Payne of University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, can now say that the phenomenon they observed, called ASASSN-14ko, is a periodically recurring flare from the center of a galaxy more than 570 million light-years away in the southern constellation Pictor.

Rough diamond photograph purchased from iStock

Minerals are the most durable, information-rich objects we can study to understand our planet’s origin and evolution. The current approach to categorizing minerals doesn’t work well for planetary and other historically oriented geosciences, where the emphasis is on understanding the formation and development of planetary bodies. Carnegie's Robert Hazen and Shaunna Morrison along with philosophy of science expert Carol Cleland of CU Boulder advocate for a new evolutionary approach to classifying minerals that complements the existing protocols and offers an opportunity to rigorously document Earth’s history.

Heart Reef in Australia's Great Barrier Reef, public domain.

The CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing system can help scientists understand, and possibly improve, how corals respond to the environmental stresses of climate change. Work led by Phillip Cleves—who joined Carnegie’s Department of Embryology this fall—details how the revolutionary, Nobel Prize-winning technology can be deployed to guide conservation efforts for fragile reef ecosystems.

If every country in the world started to cut emissions by 2 percent annually in 2020, the world would warm to the climate-stabilizing Paris Agreement goal of 2 degrees Celsius over the pre-industrial era. However, lead author Carnegie's Lei Duan explained, “we determined that if decarbonization began only when a country reached a $10,000 per capita GDP, it would cause less than 0.3 degrees Celsius additional warming. This demonstrates that the onus of fighting climate change really falls on the shoulders of more developed nations.”

An artist’s conception of GN-z11 courtesy of Jingchuan Yu.

New work from an international team of astronomers including Carnegie’s Gregory Walth improves our understanding of the most-distant known astrophysical object— GN-z11, a galaxy 13.4 billion light-years from Earth. Formed 400 million years after the Big Bang, GN-z11 was previously determined by space telescope data to be the most-distant object yet discovered. 

Islands of Four Mountains, Alaska. USGS Photo by John Lyons.

A small group of volcanic islands in Alaska's Aleutian chain could actually be part of a single, previously unrecognized giant volcano in the same category as Yellowstone, according to work from a research team, including Carnegie’s Diana Roman, Lara Wagner, Hélène Le Mével, and Daniel Portner, as well as recently departed postdoc Helen Janiszewski (now at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa), who will present their findings at the American Geophysical Union’s 2020 Fall Meeting.

Orange peyssonnelid algal crusts courtesy of Peter Edmunds.

Human activity endangers coral health around the world. A new algal threat is taking advantage of coral’s already precarious situation in the Caribbean and making it even harder for reef ecosystems to grow. Just-published research in Scientific Reports details how an aggressive, golden-brown, crust-like alga is rapidly overgrowing shallow reefs, taking the place of coral that was damaged by extreme storms and exacerbating the damage caused by ocean acidification, disease, pollution, and bleaching.

Senna tora photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Palo Alto, CA— Anthraquinones are a class of naturally occurring compounds prized for their medicinal properties, as well as

Richard Carlson, Director Carnegie Earth and Planets Laboratory

Richard Carlson, Director of Carnegie’s Earth and Planets Laboratory, has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was selected for his “outstanding research, leadership, innovation, and service to the community in geochemistry and geology.” The tradition of AAAS Fellows began in 1874 and election for this honor is bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers. This year 489 members have been selected due to their “scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.” 

The Blue Ring Nebula courtesy of Mark Seibert

The mysterious Blue Ring Nebula has puzzled astronomers since it was discovered in 2004. New work published in Nature by a Caltech-led team including Carnegie astrophysicists Mark Seibert and Andrew McWilliam revealed that the phenomenon is the extremely difficult-to-spot result of a stellar collision in which two stars merged into one.

Thousands of exoplanets are known to orbit nearby stars and small rocky planets are common.

It is perhaps a huge understatement to say that our human footprint upon planet Earth is creating a host of challenges for all of us