April 22, 2014 Dr. Maria T. Zuber  Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences Since before the first single-celled organisms, the Moon has...
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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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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...
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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...
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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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Alycia Weinberger wants to understand how planets form, so she observes young stars in our galaxy and their disks, from which planets are born. She also looks for and studies planetary systems. Studying disks surrounding nearby stars help us determine the necessary conditions for planet formation....
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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...
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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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Washington, D.C.— Scientists have long believed that lava erupted from certain oceanic volcanoes contains materials from the early Earth’s crust. But decisive evidence for this phenomenon has proven...
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Many people have heard of Pangaea, the supercontinent that included all continents on Earth and began to break up about 175 million years ago. But before Pangaea, Earth’s landmasses ripped apart and...
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July 15, 2019

A $2.7 million multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional NSF-Frontiers of Earth Science grant has been awarded to a team led by Carnegie’s Lara Wagner to study an active flat slab in Colombia. A flat slab is produced when a tectonic plate descends to depths of about 30 to 60 miles (~50-100 km) then flattens and travels horizontally for hundreds of miles before descending farther into Earth’s mantle. Flat slabs are unlike standard subduction, in which a tectonic plate descends more steeply beneath another plate directly into the Earth. 

Because flat slabs travel horizontally directly beneath the overriding continents for hundreds of miles, they have more extensive

The planet Earth on April 17, 2019, courtesy NOAA/NASA EPIC Team.
June 3, 2019

Washington, DC—The first minerals to form in the universe were nanocrystalline diamonds, which condensed from gases ejected when the first generation of stars exploded. Diamonds that crystallize under the extreme pressure and temperature conditions deep inside of Earth are more typically encountered by humanity. What opportunities for knowledge are lost when mineralogists categorize both the cosmic travelers and the denizens of deep Earth as being simply “diamond”?

Could a new classification system that accounts for minerals’ distinct journeys help us better understand mineralogy as a process of universal and planetary evolution?

The current system

May 16, 2019

The Office of the President has selected two new Carnegie Venture Grants. Peter Driscoll of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism and Sally June Tracy of the Geophysical Laboratory were awarded a venture grant for their proposal Carbon-rich Super-Earths: Constraining Internal Structure from Dynamic Compression Experiments. Plant Biology’s Sue Rhee and Global Ecology’s Joe Berry and Jen Johnson were awarded a Venture Grant for their project Thermo-adaptation of Photosynthesis in Extremophilic Desert Plants.

Carnegie Science Venture Grants ignore conventional boundaries and bring together cross-disciplinary researchers with fresh eyes to explore different questions.

Artist’s impression of the surface of the planet Proxima b courtesy of ESO/M. Kornmesser.
May 1, 2019

Washington, DC—Which of Earth’s features were essential for the origin and sustenance of life? And how do scientists identify those features on other worlds?

A team of Carnegie investigators with array of expertise ranging from geochemistry to planetary science to astronomy published this week in Science an essay urging the research community to recognize the vital importance of a planet’s interior dynamics in creating an environment that’s hospitable for life.

With our existing capabilities, observing an exoplanet’s atmospheric composition will be the first way to search for signatures of life elsewhere. However, Carnegie’s

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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 was once part of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). The Carnegie Team focused on life’s chemical and physical evolution, from the interstellar medium, through planetary systems, to the emergence and detection of life by studying extrasolar planets, Solar System formation, organic rich primitive planetary bodies, prebiotic molecular synthesis through catalyzing with minerals, and the connection between planetary evolution to the emergence, and sustenance of biology. This program integrated the narrative of life’s history through a combination of bottom-up and top-down studies including processes related to chemical and physical

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,

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

Roiling cauldrons of liquid-laden material flow within Earth’s rocky interior. Understanding how this matter moves and changes is essential to deciphering Earth’s formation and evolution as well as the processes that create seismic activity, such as earthquakes and volcanoes. Bjørn Mysen probes this hidden environment in the laboratory and, based on his results, models can help explain what goes on in this remote realm.

Mysen investigates changes in the atomic properties of molten silicates at high pressures and temperatures that pervade the interior Earth. Silicates comprise most of the Earth's crust and mantle. He uses devices, such as the diamond anvil

Andrew Steele uses traditional and biotechnological approaches for the detection of microbial life in the field of astrobiology and Solar System exploration. Astrobiology is the search for the origin and distribution of life in the universe. A microbiologist by training, his principle interest is in developing protocols, instrumentation, and procedures for life detection in samples from the early Earth and elsewhere in the Solar System.

Steele has developed several instrument and mission concepts for future Mars missions and became involved in the 2011 Mars Science Laboratory mission as a member of the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) team. For  a number of years he journeyed to

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

With the proliferation of discoveries of planets orbiting other stars, the race is on to find habitable worlds akin to the Earth. At present, however, extrasolar planets less massive than Saturn cannot be reliably detected. Astrophysicist John Chambers models the dynamics of these newly found giant planetary systems to understand their formation history and to determine the best way to predict the existence and frequency of smaller Earth-like worlds.

As part of this research, Chambers explores the basic physical, chemical, and dynamical aspects that led to the formation of our own Solar System--an event that is still poorly understood. His ultimate goal is to determine if similar