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...
Explore this Story
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-...
Explore this Story
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...
Explore this Story
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...
Explore this Story
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...
Explore this Story
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...
Explore this Story
Washington, D.C—Geochemist Richard Carlson of Carnegie’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism has been elected a member of the National Academy of...
Explore this Story


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...
Explore this Project
Carnegie was once part of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI).Carnegie Science at Broad Branch Road was one of the  founding members of the 1998 teams who partnered with NASA, and remained a member through several Cooperative Agreement Notices (CANS):  CAN 1  from 1998 -...
Explore this Project
Andrew Steele joins the Rosetta team as a co-investigator working on the COSAC instrument aboard the Philae lander (Fred Goesmann Max Planck Institute - PI). On 12 November 2014 the Philae system will be deployed to land on the comet and begin operations. Before this, several analyses of the comet...
Explore this Project
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...
Meet this Scientist
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...
Meet this Scientist
Peter Driscoll studies the evolution of Earth’s core and magnetic field including magnetic pole reversal. Over the last 20 million or so years, the north and south magnetic poles on Earth have reversed about every 200,000, to 300,000 years and is now long overdue. He also investigates...
Meet this Scientist
You May Also Like...
Yingwei Fei, a high-pressure experimentalist at the Geophysical Laboratory, and Peter Driscoll, theoretical geophysicist in the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, have been awarded a Carnegie...
Explore this Story
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...
Explore this Story
Washington, DC— A team made up almost entirely of current and former Carnegie scientists has discovered a highly unusual planetary system comprised of a Sun-like star, a dwarf star, and an enormous...
Explore this Story

Explore Carnegie Science

Artist's conception by Robin Dienel, courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Sc
October 16, 2019

Washington, DC— What does a gestating baby planet look like? New research in Nature by a team including Carnegie’s Jaehan Bae investigated the effects of three planets in the process of forming around a young star, revealing the source of their atmospheres.

In their youth, stars are surrounded by a rotating disk of gas and dust from which planets are born. Studying the behavior of the material that makes up these disks can reveal new details about planet formation, and about the evolution of a planetary system as a whole.

The disk around a young star called HD 163296 is known to include several rings and gaps. Using 3-D visualizations taken by the Atacama Large

Saturn image is courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.
October 7, 2019

Washington, DC—Move over Jupiter; Saturn is the new moon king.

A team led by Carnegie's Scott S. Sheppard has found 20 new moons orbiting Saturn.  This brings the ringed planet’s total number of moons to 82, surpassing Jupiter, which has 79. The discovery was announced Monday by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center.

Each of the newly discovered moons is about five kilometers, or three miles, in diameter. Seventeen of them orbit the planet backwards, or in a retrograde direction, meaning their movement is opposite of the planet's rotation around its axis. The other three moons orbit in the prograde—the same direction

Simulation of a disk of gas and dust around a young star, courtesy of Alan Boss
September 27, 2019

Washington, DC—There is an as-yet-unseen population of Jupiter-like planets orbiting nearby Sun-like stars, awaiting discovery by future missions like NASA’s WFIRST space telescope, according to new models of gas giant planet formation by Carnegie’s Alan Boss described in an upcoming publication in The Astrophysical Journal.  His models are supported by a new Science paper on the surprising discovery of a gas giant planet orbiting a low-mass star.

“Astronomers have struck a bonanza in searching for and detecting exoplanets of every size and stripe since the first confirmed exoplanet, a hot Jupiter, was discovered in 1995,” Boss explained.

September 18, 2019

Washington, DC—Carnegie’s Scott Sheppard and his long-time colleague Chad Trujillo of Northern Arizona University received The Europlanet Society’s 2019 Paolo Farinella Prize for “outstanding collaborative work for the observational characterization of the Kuiper belt and the Neptune-trojan population.” 

The prize was established in 2010 in honor of Italian scientist whose name it bears and the winners must be excellent investigators who are no older than 47, which was Farinella’s age when he died, and who have achieved important results in one of his research areas. Each year the Prize focuses on a different one of these topics and in 2019

No content in this section.

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 young. None of the accepted paradigms explain why the magmatic and tectonic activity extend so far east of the North American plate margin. By applying numerous techniques ranging from geochemistry and petrology to active and passive seismic imaging to geodynamic modeling, the researchers examine an assemblage of new data that will provide key information about the roles of lithosphere

Andrew Steele joins the Rosetta team as a co-investigator working on the COSAC instrument aboard the Philae lander (Fred Goesmann Max Planck Institute - PI). On 12 November 2014 the Philae system will be deployed to land on the comet and begin operations. Before this, several analyses of the comet environment are scheduled from an approximate orbit of 10 km from the comet. The COSAC instrument is a Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer that will measure the abundance of volatile gases and organic carbon compounds in the coma and solid samples of the comet.

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.

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

Volcanologist Diana Roman is interested in the mechanics of how magma moves through the Earth’s crust, and in the structure, evolution, and dynamics of volcanic conduit systems. Her ultimate goal is to understand the likelihood and timing of volcanic eruptions.

Most of Roman’s research focuses on understanding changes in seismicity and stress in response to the migration of magma through volcanic conduits, and on developing techniques and strategies for monitoring active or restless volcanoes through the analysis of high-frequency volcanic seismicity.

Roman is also interested in understanding the seismicity at quiet volcanoes, tectonic and hidden volcanic

Geochemist and director of Terrestrial Magnetism, Richard Carlson, looks at the diversity of the chemistry of the early solar nebula and the incorporation of that chemistry into the terrestrial planets. He is also interested in questions related to the origin and evolution of Earth’s continental crust.

  Most all of the chemical diversity in the universe comes from the nuclear reactions inside stars, in a process called nucleosynthesis. To answer his questions, Carlson developes novel procedures using instruments called mass spectrometers to make precise measurements of isotopes--atoms of an element with different numbers of neutrons--of Chromium (Cr), strontium (Sr),

Hélène Le Mével studies volcanoes. Her research focuses on understanding the surface signals that ground deformations make to infer the ongoing process of the moving magma  in the underlying reservoir. Toward this end she uses space and field-based geodesy--the mathematics of the area and shape of the Earth--to identify, model and interpret this ground deformation.

She uses data from radar called Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR), and data from the Global Positioning System (GPS) to characterize ground motion during volcanic unrest. She also collects gravity data, which indicate changes in mass and/or density underground. These data sets,