“It was probably the runt of the family,” Scott Sheppard tells the L.A. Times of the theorized ninth planet. Sheppard's 2014 co-discovery of the planetoid 2012 VP113, popularly...
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"Estimates range as high as there being one habitable Earth-like planet for every star in our galaxy. As someone who has lived through the ups and downs of the history of the field of...
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Smithsonian Magazine talks Bob Hazen about "Life's Rocky Start" the NOVA special that features his work on mineral evolution and ecology. “We see this intertwined co-...
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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...
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Washington, DC— As astronomers continue to find more and more planets around stars beyond our own Sun, they are trying to discover patterns and features that indicate what types of planets are...
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Washington, D.C.—New observations from an international geophysics team, including Carnegie’s Lara Wagner, suggest that the standard belief that the Earth’s rigid tectonic plates...
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“We can’t explain these objects’ orbits from what we know about the solar system,” says Carnegie's Scott Sheppard in Science Magazine's coverage of his announcement 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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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...
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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,...
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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...
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Seismic waves flow through Earth’s solid and liquid material differently, allowing Earth scientists to determine various aspects of the composition of the Earth’s interior. Broadband seismology looks at a broad spectrum of waves for high-resolution imaging. Lara Wagner collects this...
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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...
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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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Washington, D.C. —A key to understanding Earth’s evolution is to look deep into the lower mantle—a region some 400 to 1,800 miles (660 to 2,900 kilometers) below the surface, just above the core....
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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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A joint study between Carnegie and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has determined that the average temperature of Earth’s mantle beneath ocean basins is about 110 degrees Fahrenheit (...
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Explore Carnegie Science

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August 19, 2019

Washington, DC— Carnegie scientists Michael Walter and Robert Hazen have been elected 2019 Fellows of the American Geophysical Union.

Fellows are recognized for visionary leadership and scientific excellence that has fundamentally advanced research in the Earth and space sciences. “Their breadth of interests and the scope of their contributions are remarkable and often groundbreaking,” said the organization in its announcement of the new class.  

The Director of Carnegie’s Geophysical Laboratory, Walter is an experimental petrologist whose research focuses on early Earth’s history, shortly after the planet accreted from the cloud of gas

Telica Volcano in Nicaragua, courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science.
August 6, 2019

Washington, DC—Some volcanoes take their time—experiencing protracted, years-long periods of unrest before eventually erupting. This makes it difficult to forecast when they pose a danger to their surrounding areas, but Carnegie’s Diana Roman and Penn State’s Peter LaFemina are trying to change that.

“Dormancy, brief unrest, eruption—this is a familiar pattern for many volcanoes, and for many parents,” joked Roman. “But for some volcanoes the unrest is anything but brief—potentially lasting for decades.”

It turns out that these so-called “persistently restless volcanoes” experience three different

An artist’s illustration courtesy of Carl Sagan Institute/Jack Madden
July 31, 2019

Pasadena, CA— Sometimes there is more to a planetary system than initially meets the eye. 

Ground-based observations following up on the discovery of a small planet by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) revealed two additional planets in the same system, one of which is located far enough from its star to be potentially habitable.  These findings were announced in Astronomy & Astrophysics by an international team that included several Carnegie astronomers and instrumentation specialists.

The newly found exoplanets orbit a star named GJ 357, an M-type dwarf that’s about one-third of the Sun’s mass and located 31

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

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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.

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 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.

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,

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. Young disks contain the raw materials for building planets and the ultimate architecture of planetary systems depends on how these raw materials are distributed, what the balance of different elements and ices is within the gas and dust, and how fast the disks dissipate.

Weinberger uses a variety of observational techniques and facilities, particularly ultra-high spatial-

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 arose from the chemical to the biological world; how life emerges in extreme environments; and the origin and distribution of life in the universe  just to name a few topics. In tandem with this expansive Carnegie work, he is also the Clarence Robinson Professor of Earth Science at George Mason University. He has authored more than 350 articles and 20 books on science, history, and music.

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 ancient geodynamic processes.

Shirey’s past, current, and future studies reflect the diversity of continental rocks, encompassing a range of studies that include rocks formed anywhere from the deep mantle to the surface crust. His work spans a wide range of geologic settings such as volcanic rocks in continental rifts (giant crustal breaks where continents split apart), ancient and

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