Meteorite thin section courtesy Nicole Xike Nie.

Carnegie is where the next generation of big ideas are born. Our research breakthroughs have fundamentally changed how we understand biology, our planet, and the cosmos.

We are one of few organizations worldwide where dedicated scientists can choose to explore new research directions that could redefine our collective future. This enterprising approach has fostered new fields of research led to unexpected benefits to society.



What makes us stand out?

Track record:

Carnegie has a long history of finding and supporting exceptional talent at every career stage—individuals who go on to make groundbreaking discoveries, both at Carnegie and as part of our network of remarkable alumni.


Our 67 senior investigators and a thriving community of about 150 postdoctoral fellows and graduate students are the key to Carnegie’s curiosity-driven approach and tremendous impact on the scientific endeavor.

Intellectual freedom:

Our independance allows us to pursue the most-important scientific questions of the day. We are one of few organizations worldwide where dedicated scientists can choose to explore new research directions that could redefine our collective future.

Pink anemone waves in the ocean current


We are now entering a time of scientific discovery unparalleled in our history. This new age brings a convergence of trends in scientific practice and technology that allows interdisciplinary research to thrive. New instrumentation and technologies, such as next-generation massive telescopes and gene-editing tools like CRISPR, are opening entirely new fields of research. And incredible advances in computation are revealing deeper and ever-more complex opportunities for insight. Our growing partnership with Caltech, including significant collaborations on the technology driving 21st-century science, is accelerating our ability to capitalize on this pivotal moment.

Did you Know?

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    The number of minerals named after Carnegie scientists, including Feiite, an iron-titanuim oxide mineral discovered in a meteorite that originated on Mars, which was named after Yingwei Fei in March 2021.

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    The number of days it takes the asteroid 2021 PH27, discovered in August 2021 by Scott Sheppard, to orbit the Sun. the shortest known orbital period for an asteroid and second shortest for any object in our Solar System after Mercury.

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    The percentage of genes of the experimental mustard plant Arabidopsis thaliana that scientists know what they do. The Plant Cell Atlas, spearheaded by Carnegie’s Sue Rhee, David Ehrhardt, and Selena Rice aims to improve this understanding.

The Future of Instrumentation 

 Inspiration From the Stars 

On one of their first dates, Chris Madison brought his wife Lois outside to look at the Moon and describe its phases. Seeing the wonder and passion he had for the night sky, Lois sensed that astronomy and the stars would always play some role in their relationship.   

Chris’ love of astronomy first emerged when he was a boy. He and his father both struggled with insomnia, so they made the best of the situation and spent time outdoors together late at night, snacks in hand, gazing at the stars. Through those experiences w, Chris fell in love with the night sky and wanted to learn as much as he could about the universe.  

The Madisons were introduced to Carnegie Science through a friend who invited them to attend a lunch program at the Observatories in Pasadena. As a result of this connection, they joined a community that enjoys exploring and thinking about the cosmos and our place in it. Through various events and gatherings, they met other like-minded enthusiasts, spoke with Carnegie scientists, and made new friends and acquaintances.  

Then, a few years ago, an exciting new idea for an instrument to be used on Carnegie’s Magellan telescopes at our Las Campanas Observatory in Chile was put forth by several Carnegie staff scientists: Nick Konidaris, Gwen Rudie and Drew Newman. The instrument, known as the Magellan Multi-object Spectrograph (MIRMOS), will enable astronomers to collect spectra from distant galaxies and other objects simultaneously. That data will contribute significantly to addressing extragalactic, cosmological, and exoplanetary science questions.  

Soon after learning about the goals of MIRMOS, Chris and Lois decided to make a gift that would significantly advance MIRMOS into prototyping and completion. 

"This project is ambitious, creative, and at the leading edge of what we think we can do. When I thought of people who might share our imagination and who might be able to help, I knew that I wanted to speak with Chris and Lois about the project," said Observatories Director John Mulchaey. 

Chris hoped that his philanthropy would inspire others to support organizations and causes about which they are passionate He had looked up at the stars as a child with amazement, and his wonder grew into a love for astronomy that stayed with him throughout his life. Everyone at the Carnegie Observatories will remember him fondly.  

In Memoriam: Madison passed away in March 2022. We are deeply grateful for his dedication to Carnegie Science and sorely miss his friendship and camaraderie.   


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    stars and galaxies

    observed simultaneously

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    times faster

    than any existing instrument

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    operating temperature of the instrument’s optics

Heising-Simons Foundation Funds Bold New Instruments

Magellan Telescope Mirrors

The Heising-Simons Foundation believes that advances in astronomical instrumentation hold the power to revolutionize our knowledge and understanding of the universe. In 2021, the Foundation awarded grants totaling $2.6 million to develop two ambitious instruments for the Magellan telescopes at our Las Campanas Observatories in Chile.  

The Magellan Infrared Multiobject Spectrograph, or MIRMOS, will enable breakthroughs in understanding cosmology, galaxy evolution, and exoplanet atmospheres. MagNIFIES, or Magellans' Near-Infrared Five-band Immersion grating Efficient Spectrograph, will enable breakthroughs in our understanding of the planet formation process. 

The MIRMOS team is led by instrument lead Nicholas Koindaris and project scientists Andrew Newman and Gwen Rudie and includes Carnegie postdoc Alicia Lanz and University of Southern California graduate student Jason Williams. The funding from Heising-Simons will enable the development of key instrument functionalities on MIRMOS—the design and construction of one of MIRMOS’s ultra-fast cameras, which will feature one-of-a-kind engineering, and of the exo-atmosphere pathfinder which will deploy technological advances to enable astronomers to detect incredibly subtle signals of the atmospheric compositions of distant worlds.   

Carnegie’s Alycia Weinberger and collaborators from the University of Texas at Austin and the Korean Astronomy and Space Science Institute are building an instrument that will allow astronomers to study the molecular makeup of the atmospheres of distant worlds in unprecedented detail. Unlike other instruments that could take hours to detect a single molecule, MagNIFIES will be able to simultaneously search for a whole suite of interesting materials.  Eventually, MagNIFIES will move across Las Campanas Observatory from Magellan to the Giant Magellan Telescope. 

Carnegie Science is proud to partner with the Heising-Simons Foundation on these critical projects that will help advance of our knowledge of the universe. The Heising-Simons Foundation is a family foundation based in Los Altos and San Francisco California. The Foundation works with its many partners to advance sustainable solutions in climate and clean energy, enable groundbreaking research in science, enhance the education of our youngest learners, and support human rights for all people. 

"Whenever you have a better tool, a bigger telescope, to collect light and separate the wavelengths, you are going to open up new windows for discovery. Every new advance in instrumentation brings in new capabilities and we are excited by the potential these instruments hold," said Jochen Marschall, Science Program Officer at the Heising-Simons Foundation


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    as many targets detected

    as previous instruments

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    largest simultaneous spectral coverage of any high-resolution spectrograph in the world

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    spectral resolutions

    the largest spectral grasp of any high dispersion instrument in the world