Magellan Science

Science and discoveries

Artist’s conceptions of the most-distant supermassive black hole ever discovered, which is part of a quasar from just 690 million years after the Big Bang. It is surrounded by neutral hydrogen, indicating that it is from the period called the epoch of reionization, when the universe’s first light sources turned on. Illustrations by Robin Dienel, provided courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science.

Discoveries and studies made with the Magellan telescopes cover a wide range of astronomical objects, including moons, exoplanets, quasars, supernovae, and more. We highlight:

The most-distant supermassive black hole ever observed

The most-distant supermassive black hole ever observed was detected residing in a luminous quasar. The light from this object reaches us from when the universe was only 5 percent of its current age–just 690 million years after the Big Bang. The black hole itself has a mass that is 800 million times the mass of our Sun. The discovery was made by a team led by Chilean astronomer Eduardo Bañados, a former Carnegie scientist, and the confirmation and follow-up observations were made with the Baade telescope. More.

A rare supernova that could resolve a longstanding origin debate

A supernova with an unusual chemical signature was detected by a team of astronomers led by Carnegie’s Juna Kollmeier, and including Nidia Morrell and Mark Phillips from Las Campanas. The supernova, ASASSN-18b, was identified by the ASASSN survey and was studied with the Magellan telescopes as part of the 100IAS project. Although hydrogen is the most-abundant element in the universe, it is almost never seen in Type Ia supernova explosions. This lack of hydrogen is one the defining features of this category of supernova and is thought to be a key clue to understanding what came before the explosions. What is so surprising is that this type Ia supernova, ASASSN-18b, does have hydrogen emissions. This makes it an important piece of the puzzle for solving the mystery of how these supernovae originate. More.

The most-distant Solar System objects ever observed

Carnegie astronomer Scott Sheppard and his colleagues are known for their studies of the outer regions of the Solar System, which has resulted in the discovery of many of the most-distant objects ever observed orbiting our star. One of this objects was nicknamed Farout (provisional designation 2018 VG18) and was detected at a distance that is more than 100 times farther than Earth from the Sun (120 astronomical units). Farout was discovered as part of the team’s continuing search for extremely distant Solar System objects, including the suspected Planet X, which is sometimes also called Planet 9. The object was discovered using images from the Japanese Subaru 8-meter telescope located atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii, and was confirmed thanks to observations made with the Magellan telescope. More.