Washington, DC —Scientists have long believed that comets and, or a type of very primitive meteorite called carbonaceous chondrites were the sources of early Earth's volatile elements—which include...
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Washington, D.C.—Although there have been about 800 extra-solar planets discovered so far in our galaxy, the precise masses of the majority of them are still unknown, as the most-common planet-...
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Washington, D.C. — Mineral evolution posits that Earth’s near-surface mineral diversity gradually increased through an array of chemical and biological processes. A dozen different species in...
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Washington, D.C.—Until now, Earth was the only planet known to have vast reservoirs of water in its interior. Scientists analyzed the water content of two Martian meteorites originating from inside...
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Washington, DC — Molecules containing large chains of carbon and hydrogen--the building blocks of all life on Earth--have been the targets of missions to Mars from Viking to the present day. While...
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Washington, D.C.— In the search for Earth-like planets, it is helpful to look for clues and patterns that can help scientist narrow down the types of systems where potentially habitable planets are...
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Washington, D.C—Geochemist Richard Carlson of Carnegie’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism has been elected a member of the National Academy of...
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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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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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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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Alan Linde is trying to understand the tectonic activity that is associated with earthquakes and volcanos, with the hope of helping predictions methods.  He uses highly sensitive data that measures how the Earth is changing below the surface with devises called borehole strainmeters that...
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Earth scientist Robert Hazen has an unusually rich research portfolio. He is trying to understand the carbon cycle from deep inside the Earth; chemical interactions at crystal-water interfaces; the interactions of organic molecules on mineral surfaces as a possible springboard to life; how life...
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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...
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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...
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When a star is young, it is often still surrounded by a primordial rotating disk of gas and dust from which planets can form. Astronomers like to find such disks because they might be able to...
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Washington, D.C.— Linda Elkins-Tanton, director of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, is resigning her position at Carnegie, effective May 9, 2014. She has accepted a position as the director...
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Explore Carnegie Science

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

Images of diamonds from Sierra Leone with sulfur-containing mineral inclusions courtesy of the Gemological Institute of America
April 25, 2019

Washington, DC— The longevity of Earth’s continents in the face of destructive tectonic activity is an essential geologic backdrop for the emergence of life on our planet. This stability depends on the underlying mantle attached to the landmasses. New research by a group of geoscientists from Carnegie, the Gemological Institute of America, and the University of Alberta demonstrates that diamonds can be used to reveal how a buoyant section of mantle beneath some of the continents became thick enough to provide long-term stability.

“We’ve found a way to use traces of sulfur from ancient volcanoes that made its way into the mantle and eventually into diamonds

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Established in June of 2016 with a generous gift of $50,000 from Marilyn Fogel and Christopher Swarth, the Marilyn Fogel Endowed Fund for Internships will provide support for “very young budding scientists” who wish to “spend a summer getting their feet wet in research for the very first time.”  The income from this endowed fund will enable high school students and undergraduates to conduct mentored internships at Carnegie’s Geophysical Laboratory and Department of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington, DC starting in the summer of 2017.

Marilyn Fogel’s thirty-three year career at Carnegie’s Geophysical Laboratory (1977-2013), followed

The Anglo-Australian Planet Search (AAPS) is a long-term program being carried out on the 3.9-meter Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) to search for giant planets around more than 240 nearby Sun-like stars. The team, including Carnegie scientists,  uses the "Doppler wobble" technique to search for these otherwise invisible extra-solar planets, and achieve the highest long-term precision demonstrated by any Southern Hemisphere planet search.

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.

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

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 and during the formation of our Solar System. Meteorites are fragments of asteroids—small bodies that originated between Mars and Jupiter—and are likely the last remnants of objects that gave rise to the terrestrial planets. He is particularly interested in the analysis of chondrules, millimeter-size spherical objects that are the dominant constituent of the most primitive

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

Peter van Keken studies the thermal and chemical evolution of the Earth. In particularly he looks at the causes and consequences of plate tectonics; element modeling of mantle convection,  and the dynamics of subduction zones--locations where one tectonic plate slides under another. He also studies mantle plumes; the integration of geodynamics with seismology; geochemistry and mineral physics. He uses parallel computing and scientific visualization in this work.

He received his BS and Ph D from the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands. Prior to joining Carnegie he was on the faculty of the University of Michigan.