Washington, D.C.—The Solar System has a new most-distant member, bringing its outer frontier into focus. New work from Carnegie's Scott Sheppard and Chadwick Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory...
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Audio Washington, D.C.—New global imaging and topographic data from MESSENGER* show that the innermost planet has contracted far more than...
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February 20, 2014 Dr. Robert Hazen, Carnegie Institution for Science, Geophysical Laboratory The story of Earth is a 4.5-billion-year saga of dramatic transformations, driven by physical, chemical,...
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Pasadena, CA–The international consortium of the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) project has passed two major reviews and is positioned to enter the construction phase. When completed, the 25-meter...
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January 16, 2014 Dance on a Volcano: A Quarter Century of Experimental First Ascents  Dr. Donald B. Dingwell, Secretary General of the European Research Council, President of the European...
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Life originated as a result of natural processes that exploited early Earth's raw materials. Scientific models of life's origins almost always look to minerals for such essential tasks as the...
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Washington, D.C.— Life originated as a result of natural processes that exploited early Earth’s raw materials. Scientific models of life’s origins almost always look to minerals for such essential...
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AudioWashington, D.C.— Around 250 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period, there was a mass extinction so severe that it remains...
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The WGESP was charged with acting as a focal point for research on extrasolar planets and organizing IAU activities in the field, including reviewing techniques and maintaining a list of identified planets. The WGESP developed a Working List of extrasolar planet candidates, subject to revision. In...
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Starting in 2005, the High Lava Plains project is focused on a better understanding of why the Pacific Northwest, specifically eastern Oregon's High Lava Plains, is so volcanically active. This region is the most volcanically active area of the continental United States and it's relatively...
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Carnegie scientists participate in NASA's Kepler missions, the first mission capable of finding Earth-size planets around other stars. The centuries-old quest for other worlds like our Earth has been rejuvenated by the intense excitement and popular interest surrounding the discovery of...
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Geochemist Steven Shirey is researching how Earth's continents formed. Continent formation spans most of Earth's history, continents were key to the emergence of life, and they contain a majority of Earth’s resources. Continental rocks also retain the geologic record of Earth's...
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Scott Sheppard studies the dynamical and physical properties of small bodies in our Solar System, such as asteroids, comets, moons and trans-neptunian objects (bodies that orbit beyond Neptune).  These objects have a fossilized imprint from the formation and migration of the major planets in...
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Some 40 thousand tons of extraterrestrial material fall on Earth every year. This cosmic debris provides cosmochemist Conel Alexander with information about the formation of the Solar System, our galaxy, and perhaps the origin of life. Alexander studies meteorites to determine what went on before...
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Washington, D.C.— Seawater circulation pumps hydrogen and boron into the oceanic plates that make up the seafloor, and some of this seawater remains trapped as the plates descend into the mantle at...
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Not only did our early Solar System potentially consist of five or even six giant worlds, but there may have been a large number of inner, terrestrial planets that were ejected back in the Solar...
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Blue diamonds—like the world-famous Hope Diamond at the National Museum of Natural History—formed up to four times deeper in the Earth’s mantle than most other diamonds, according...
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Artist concept of 2018 VG18, nicknamed "Farout.” Illustration by Roberto Molar Candanosa is courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science.
December 17, 2018

Washington, DC— A team of astronomers has discovered the most-distant body ever observed in our Solar System.  It is the first known Solar System object that has been detected at a distance that is more than 100 times farther than Earth is from the Sun.

The new object was announced on Monday, December 17, 2018, by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center and has been given the provisional designation 2018 VG18. The discovery was made by Carnegie’s Scott S. Sheppard, the University of Hawaii’s David Tholen, and Northern Arizona University’s Chad Trujillo.

2018 VG18, nicknamed “Farout” by the discovery team for

Artist’s impression of Barnard’s Star planet under the orange tinted light from the star.  Credit: IEEC/Science-Wave - Guillem Ramisa
November 14, 2018

Washington, DC—An international team including five Carnegie astronomers has discovered a frozen Super-Earth orbiting Barnard’s star, the closest single star to our own Sun. The Planet Finder Spectrograph on Carnegie’s Magellan II telescope was integral to the discovery, which is published in Nature.

Just six light-years from Earth, Barnard’s star is our fourth-closest neighboring star overall, after Alpha Centauri’s triple-star system. It is smaller and older than our Sun and among the least-active known red dwarfs.

To find this cold Super-Earth, the team—which included Carnegie’s Paul Butler, Johanna Teske, Jeff Crane, Steve

Mars mosaic courtesy of NASA
October 31, 2018

Washington, DC—Mars’ organic carbon may have originated from a series of electrochemical reactions between briny liquids and volcanic minerals, according to new analyses of three Martian meteorites from a team led by Carnegie’s Andrew Steele published in Science Advances.

The group’s analysis of a trio of Martian meteorites that fell to Earth—Tissint, Nakhla, and NWA 1950—showed that they contain an inventory of organic carbon that is remarkably consistent with the organic carbon compounds detected by the Mars Science Laboratory’s rover missions.

In 2012, Steele led a team that determined the organic carbon found in 10 Martian

NASEM astrobiology briefing artwork
October 10, 2018

Washington, DC—NASA should incorporate astrobiology into all stages of future exploratory missions, according to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine presented Wednesday by the chair of the study, University of Toronto’s Barbara Sherwood Lollar, and by Carnegie’s Alan Boss, one of the report’s 17 expert authors.

Astrobiology addresses the factors that allowed life to originate and develop in the universe and investigates whether life exists on planets other than Earth. This highly interdisciplinary and constantly adapting field incorporates expertise in biology, chemistry, geology, planetary science, and physics.

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The WGESP was charged with acting as a focal point for research on extrasolar planets and organizing IAU activities in the field, including reviewing techniques and maintaining a list of identified planets. The WGESP developed a Working List of extrasolar planet candidates, subject to revision. In most cases, the orbital inclination of these objects is not yet determined, which is why most should still be considered candidate planets. The WGESP ended its six years of existence in August 2006, with the decision of the IAU to create a new commission dedicated to extrasolar planets as a part of Division III of the IAU. The founding president of Commission 53 is Michael Mayor, in honor of

Superdeep diamonds are  tiny time capsules carrying unchanged impurities made eons ago and providing researchers with important clues about Earth’s formation.  Diamonds derived from below the continental lithosphere, are most likely from the transition zone (415 miles, or 670km deep) or the top of the lower mantle. Understanding diamond origins and compositions of the high-pressure mineral phases has potential to revolutionize our understanding of deep mantle circulation.

Carnegie's Paul Butler has been leading work on a multiyear project to carry out the first reconnaissance of all 2,000 nearby Sun-like stars within 150 light-years of the solar system (1 lightyear is about 9.4 trillion kilometers). His team is currently monitoring about 1,700 stars, including 1,000 Northern Hemisphere stars with the Keck telescope in Hawaii and the UCO Lick Observatory telescope in California, and 300 Southern Hemisphere stars with the Anglo-Australian telescope in New South Wales, Australia. The remaining Southern Hemisphere stars are being surveyed with Carnegie's new Magellan telescopes in Chile. By 2010 the researchers hope to have completed their planetary

High-elevation, low relief surfaces are common on continents. These intercontinental plateaus influence river networks, climate, and the migration of plants and animals. How these plateaus form is not clear. Researchers are studying the geodynamic processes responsible for surface uplift in the Hangay in central Mongolia to better understand the origin of high topography in continental interiors.

This work focuses on characterizing the physical properties and structure of the lithosphere and sublithospheric mantle, and the timing, rate, and pattern of surface uplift in the Hangay. They are carrying out studies in geomorphology, geochronology, thermochronology, paleoaltimetry,

Rocks, fossils, and other natural relics hold clues to ancient environments in the form of different ratios of isotopes—atomic variants of elements with the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons. Seawater, rain water, oxygen, and ozone, for instance, all have different ratios, or fingerprints, of the oxygen isotopes 16O, 17O, and 18O. Weathering, ground water, and direct deposition of atmospheric aerosols change the ratios of the isotopes in a rock revealing a lot about the past climate.

Douglas Rumble’s research is centered on these three stable isotopes of oxygen and the four stable isotopes of sulfur 32S , 33S , 34S, and 36S. In addition to

Alan Boss is a theorist and an observational astronomer. His theoretical work focuses on the formation of binary and multiple stars, triggered collapse of the presolar cloud that eventually made  the Solar System, mixing and transport processes in protoplanetary disks, and the formation of gas giant and ice giant protoplanets. His observational works centers on the Carnegie Astrometric Planet Search project, which has been underway for the last decade at Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.

While fragmentation is universally recognized as the dominant formation mechanism for binary and multiple stars, there are still major questions. The most important of these

Scott Sheppard studies the dynamical and physical properties of small bodies in our Solar System, such as asteroids, comets, moons and trans-neptunian objects (bodies that orbit beyond Neptune).  These objects have a fossilized imprint from the formation and migration of the major planets in our Solar System, which allow us to understand how the Solar System came to be.

The major planets in our Solar System travel around the Sun in fairly circular orbits and on similar planes. However, since the discovery of wildly varying planetary systems around other stars, and given our increased understanding about small, primordial bodies in our celestial neighborhood, the notion that

Scientists simulate the high pressures and temperatures of planetary interiors to measure their physical properties. Yingwei Fei studies the composition and structure of planetary interiors with high-pressure instrumentation including the multianvil apparatus, the piston cylinder, and the diamond anvil cell. 

The Earth was formed through energetic and dynamic processes. Giant impacts, radioactive elements, and gravitational energy heated the  planet in its early stage, melting materials and paving the way for the silicate mantle and metallic core to separate.  As the planet cooled and solidified geochemical and geophysical “fingerprints” resulted from