Scott Sheppard and Chad Trujillo Discover One of the Most Distant Comets to Show Activity

Sheppard Trujillo Comet

Scott Sheppard, along with Chad Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory in Hilo, Hawaii, discovered their first comet during observations at the Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory (CTIO) 4 meter telescope while looking for objects in the far outer reaches of the Solar System.   

The comet, named Sheppard-Trujillo after its discoverers, is one of the most distant comets ever discovered to show activity.  Sheppard-Trujillo is currently about 13 AU from the Sun, making it more distant from Earth than Saturn.  At this distance, water ice is too cold to efficiently sublimate off the surface of an object and thus the activity is likely caused by Carbon Monoxide or Carbon Dioxide sublimation, which is different than most comets that have their activity dominated by water ice sublimation.  


Carnegie wishes laser inventor happy 99th birthday

Carnegie News

Nobel laureate and trustee emeritus Charles Townes is celebrating his 99th birthday on Monday, July 28.

Townes joined the Carnegie board in 1965, one year after he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Alexander Prokhorov and Nikolai Basov for the development of the maser, acronym for microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation, and its better-known optical counterpart, the laser. 


Alycia Weinberger Makes her Maiden Voyage Onboard NASA's SOFIA Airborne Observatory


DTM Staff Scientist Alycia Weinberger made her maiden voyage on NASA’s SOFIA airborne observatory on 12 June to practice making observations with the same instrument she’ll be using on her own approved airborne observation program early next year. 

SOFIA is the “largest airborne observatory in the world and is capable of making observations that are impossible for even the largest and highest ground-based telescopes.” (NASA) It consists of an extensively modified Boeing 747SP aircraft and carries a reflecting telescope with an effective diameter of 2.5 meters. While SOFIA was in development, Weinberger served on the Science Council from 2007 to 2012 and chaired its science advisory committee from 2010-2011.  


DTM Hosts the 5th National Capital Area Disks (NCAD) Meeting


This past week, DTM hosted the 5th National Capital Area Disks (NCAD) annual meeting on campus where researches from Washington D.C. and the surrounding area came together to investigate topics related to the origins and formation of planets and exoplanets in a semi-informal, collaborative mini conference.  The goal of this meeting, as in previous years, is to bring together experts in the fields of circumstellar disks, exoplanets, and solar system bodies to discuss their work in an open environment. 

Although the main focus of the conference is on circumstellar disks located around young stars of forming planets, the conference also welcomed presentations on planets, exoplanets, meteorites, comets, asteroids, and a variety of other topics that may shed light on the origins of planetary systems.


Job Opening: Geophysics Staff Scientist


The Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM) of the Carnegie Institution of Washington seeks a staff scientist in the broad field of geophysics who will investigate solid-Earth processes at the planetary scale. Areas of expertise and research emphases might include (but are not limited to) the thermal history, convection, differentiation, and tectonics of Earth and other terrestrial planets, connections between planetary formation processes and past and present geological and seismological structure of the Earth. This person should complement existing research programs in the Department. Applicants who integrate across traditional boundaries, especially between models and observations, and geophysics, geochemistry, and planetary sciences, are particularly encouraged to apply.

The Carnegie Institution is a basic research organization with a history of innovative instrumentation development. DTM staff scientists hold long-term appointments and pursue independent research supported by a combination of endowment and federal funds. DTM staff scientists do not have teaching duties, but we place considerable emphasis on mentoring postdoctoral scholars.


Vera Rubin's Influential Work on Dark Matter is Highlighted in Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

Vera Rubin Cosmos

Co-Cosmos-creator circa 1980, Ann Druyan, and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, teamed up with animator Seth MacFarlane in 2009 to create an updated version of the 1980 series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, entitled, Cosmos: A Spacetime OdysseyAfter 12 riveting episodes that dissected the vast world of space exploration in its 2014 series revival, Tyson ended the season with an episode entitled "Unafraid of the Dark."

Tyson highlights this strive for discovery in various scientific achievements throughout history, including DTM staff member emeritus Vera Rubin's acclaimed work with Kent Ford on dark matter. After Fritz Zwicky postulated the existence of an unknown mass in observable galaxies, or dark matter, in the universe in 1933, Rubin was able to provide proof of his theory in the 1970s by observing the rotation of stars at the edge of these observable galaxies and calculating that they did not follow the expected rotational behavior without considering the existence of Zwicky's dark matter.