A Place For Innovation

A pioneer in the exoplanet field, Carnegie's Paul Butler designed and built the iodine absorption cell system that was responsible for the discovery of five of the first six known extrasolar planets.


Pushing Boundaries

Carnegie's Scott Sheppard keeps pushing boundaries of our Solar System, three times finding the most-distant object orbiting our Sun. He also led the team that first proposed the existence of a mysterious Planet X lurking on the system's outermost fringe.

Discovering New Worlds

Our planetary scientists have been looking for and discovering exoplanets since before they were the hottest field in astronomy.

Since Carnegie astronomer Paul Butler confirmed the existence of the first extrasolar planet orbiting a Sun-like in 1995, scientists have found more than 4,300 planets orbiting stars other than our own. It turns out that most of these planetary systems look very different from ours.

Carnegie scientists are at the vanguard of the effort to characterize exoplanet atmospheres and understand what their compositions can teach us about the processes by which they formed and evolved. This could reveal why our Solar System looks so different.

Carnegie planetary science research exists at an especially exciting nexus of theoretical astrophysics, observational astronomy, and instrument development. Carnegie astronomers cross disciplinary boundaries and partner with geophysicists to investigate the forces that shape the interiors of distant worlds and understand how these dynamics could affect their potential for habitability. They also partner with engineers and instrument developers to advance new techniques for understanding the atmospheres of distant worlds and their potential for habitability.

Division Leadership

Related Divisions

Cross-disciplinary, Collaborative & Boundary Pushing:

Carnegie Experts Investigate the planets found in our Solar System, as well as those orbiting distant stars. 

Stromatolites at Hamelin pool in Australia


Studying life’s chemical and physical evolution—from its pre-solar beginnings through planetary formation to the emergence of life on Earth. 

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Fragments of the Tarda carbonaceous chondrite meteorite that fell in Morocco in 2020


Studying the formation and early evolution of our Solar System, of meteorites and asteroids, and larger bodies like Mars, Mercury, and the Moon.

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A large cluster of Garnet-SmokeyQuartz crystals from Tongbei-China

Mineralogy & Mineral Physics

Investigating the origin and dynamic evolution of Earth and planetary interiors, from their crusts to their cores, and the processes that lead to surfaces capable of supporting life.

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Artists rendering of a young star in space, with a cloudy ring of material surrounding it.

Planet Formation and Evolution

From direct observation of protoplanetary disks to complex mathematical models, Carnegie astronomers are working to piece together the processes that shape a planetary system's formation and early evolution. 

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Solar System and Exoplanets

Using a variety of pioneering detection techniques and instruments, our astronomers probe the outer reaches of our own planetary system and to discover the diversity of extrasolar planets.

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