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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AudioWashington, D.C.— Reconstructing the rise of life during the period of Earth’s history when it first evolved is challenging. Earth’s...
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Washington, D.C.— A new planet-hunting survey has revealed planetary candidates with orbital periods as short as four hours and so close to their host stars that they are nearly skimming the stellar...
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Washington, D.C.—Hydrocarbons from the Earth make up the oil and gas that heat our homes and fuel our cars. The study of the various phases of molecules formed from carbon and hydrogen under high...
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AudioWashington, D.C.—Comets and meteorites contain clues to our solar system's earliest days. But some of the findings are puzzle pieces that...
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Washington, D.C.—A team of astronomers, including Carnegie’s Paul Butler, has combined new observations with existing data to reveal a solar system packed full of planets. The star Gliese 667C is...
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Washington, D.C.—Although many many planets have been discovered around other stars, reseaerchers so far have not found any solar systems like  ours. In fact recently,  a team of researchers has...
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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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CALL FOR PROPOSALS Following Andrew Carnegie’s founding encouragement of liberal discovery-driven research, the Carnegie Institution for Science offers its scientists a new resource for pursuing bold ideas. Carnegie Science Venture grants are internal awards of up to $100,000 that are...
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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...
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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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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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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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Washington, DC— New work from Carnegie’s Alan Boss offers a potential solution to a longstanding problem in the prevailing theory of how rocky planets formed in our own Solar System, as well as in...
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Washington, D.C.—A team of scientists, including Carnegie’s Alan Boss, has discovered two Earth-like planets in the habitable orbit of a Sun-like star. Their work is published in Science Express.  ...
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Washington, D.C.— An international team of scientists, including Carnegie’s Paul Butler, has discovered that Tau Ceti, one of the closest and most Sun-like stars, may have five planets. Their work is...
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Explore Carnegie Science

Artist's conception. Credit Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
February 14, 2019

Washington, DC—Carnegie’s Andrew Steele is a member of the Earth First Origins project, led by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Karyn Rogers, which has been awarded a $9 million grant by NASA’s Astrobiology Program.

The five-year project seeks to uncover the conditions on early Earth that gave rise to life by identifying, replicating, and exploring how prebiotic molecules and chemical pathways could have formed under realistic early Earth conditions.

The evolution of planet Earth and the emergence of life during its first half-billion years are inextricably linked, with a series of planetwide transformations – formation of the ocean,

Self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover on Vera Rubin Ridge with Mount Sharp poking up just behind the vehicle's mast. Image is courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS Curiosity.
January 31, 2019

Washington, DC—The density of rock layers on the terrain that climbs from the base of Mars’ Gale Crater to Mount Sharp is less dense than expected, according to the latest report on the Red Planet’s geology from a team of scientists including Carnegie’s Shaunna Morrison. Their work is published in Science.

Scientists still aren't sure how this mountain grew inside of the crater, which has been a longstanding mystery. 

One idea is that sediment once filled Gale Crater and was then worn away by millions of years of wind and erosion, excavating the mountain. However, if the crater had been filled to the brim, the material on the bottom, which

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

April 25, 2019

Gravity, the fundamental force that shaped our planet, varies across the Earth’s surface, both from place to place and over time. For more than three centuries, scientists have made gravity measurements to define the shape of the Earth. Today, very precise measurements of gravity provide crucial information on the mass distribution and transport within the planet. In this talk, Dr. Le Mével will highlight the long history of the determination of the gravity field, from the first field expeditions to the era of satellite measurements, and will discuss the evolution of the instrumentation. She will then show how gravity studies are used to image magmatic systems under

May 23, 2019

In shock-wave experiments, high-powered lasers or guns are used to send a supersonic pressure wave through a sample. This type of dynamic compression can generate immense pressure and allows for the study of impact phenomena in real time. These experiments have wide applications for Earth and planetary science, ranging from understanding the effects of meteorite impacts to studying the structure of planetary interiors. Dynamic experiments are short-lived, generally having a duration of tens of billionths of a second. This requires the development of ultrafast experiments. In this talk, Tracy will review new results using high-intensity pulsed x-rays to examine the crystal structure of

The NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) Carnegie Team focuses 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 attempts to integrate the sweeping narrative of life’s history through a combination of bottom-up and top-down studies. On the one hand, this team studies processes related to chemical and physical

Carbon plays an unparalleled role in our lives: as the element of life, as the basis of most of society’s energy, as the backbone of most new materials, and as the central focus in efforts to understand Earth’s variable and uncertain climate. Yet in spite of carbon’s importance, scientists remain largely ignorant of the physical, chemical, and biological behavior of many of Earth’s carbon-bearing systems. The Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) is a global research program to transform our understanding of carbon in Earth. At its heart, DCO is a community of scientists, from biologists to physicists, geoscientists to chemists, and many others whose work crosses these

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

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 hundreds of planets orbiting other stars. There is now clear evidence for substantial numbers of three types of exoplanets; gas giants, hot-super-Earths in short period orbits, and ice giants.

The challenge now is to find terrestrial planets (those one half to twice the size of the Earth), especially those in the habitable zone of their stars where liquid water and possibly life might exist.

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

While the planets in our Solar System are astonishingly diverse, all of them move around the Sun in approximately the same orbital plane, in the same direction, and primarily in circular orbits. Over the past 25 years Butler's work has focused on improving the measurement precision of stellar Doppler velocities, from 300 meters per second in the 1980s to 1 meter a second in the 2010s to detect planets around other stars. The ultimate goal is to find planets that resemble the Earth.

Butler designed and built the iodine absorption cell system at Lick Observatory, which resulted in the discovery of 5 of the first 6 known extrasolar planets.  This instrument has become the de

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

What sets George Cody apart from other geochemists is his pioneering use of sophisticated techniques such as enormous facilities for synchrotron radiation, and sample analysis with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to characterize hydrocarbons. Today, Cody  applies these techniques to analyzing the organic processes that alter sediments as they mature into rock inside the Earth and the molecular structure of extraterrestrial organics.

Wondering about where we came from has occupied the human imagination since the dawn of consciousness. Using samples from comets and meteorites, George Cody tracks the element carbon as it moves from the interstellar medium, through