Even in Deep Space, There Are Shades of Black

How a Planet Hunter Finds Faint Objects in a Sea of Darkness

In my line of work, I stare at shades of black.

My work starts on dark, black nights, when there is no moon or reflection from it. The telescopes I use have to be in places with three qualities: High, dry, and—you guessed it—very dark. And so, I search for planets atop the summit of the highest, driest, and darkest peak in Hawaii. Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano—where the world-famous Keck Observatory is located—minimizes the “noise” in the images from Earth’s constantly swirling atmosphere and the light drifting in from …

Watching Stars Explode From Mount Wilson

For 100 Years, Scientists Have Been Making Historic Discoveries About Our Universe, Right Here in Los Angeles

At the top of Mount Wilson on a dark, quiet night, the sprawling city lights of Los Angeles flicker in the valley below. Across the mountain, several telescope domes are …

These Days, Darwin Would Need To Know More About Jupiter

What Can Astronomers Teach Biologists?

The more we learn about the universe, the more it looks like the building blocks of life—organic molecules, amino acids, planets near a sun—are present throughout. Much of what we …