Mars mosaic courtesy of NASA
Washington, DC—Mars’ organic carbon may have originated from a series of electrochemical reactions between briny liquids and volcanic minerals, according to new analyses of three Martian...
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NASEM astrobiology briefing artwork
Washington, DC—NASA should incorporate astrobiology into all stages of future exploratory missions, according to a...
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Sarah Stewart was awarded a prestigious MacArthur fellowship for: “Advancing new theories of how celestial collisions give birth to planets and their natural satellites, such as the Earth...
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Washington, DC—Carnegie’s Scott Sheppard and his colleagues—Northern Arizona University’s Chad Trujillo,...
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Erik Hauri in the lab at Carnegie's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism
Washington, DC—Carnegie geochemist Erik Hauri, whose work upended our understanding of the Moon’s formation and the importance of water in Earth’s interior, died Wednesday in North...
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Visualization rendered by Dan Tell from the California Academy of Sciences using SCISS Uniview software and directed/written by Jackie Faherty from the American Museum of Natural History.
Washington, DC—New work from Carnegie’s Jonathan Gagné and the American Museum of Natural History’s Jacqueline Faherty identified nearly a thousand potential members and 31...
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: A blue, boron-bearing diamond with dark inclusions of a mineral called ferropericlase, which were examined as part of this study.  This gem weighs 0.03 carats.  Photo by Evan Smith/GIA.
Washington, DC—Blue diamonds—like the world-famous Hope Diamond at the National Museum of Natural History—formed up to four times deeper in the Earth’s mantle than most other...
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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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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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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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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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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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Johanna Teske became the first new staff member to join Carnegie’s newly named Earth and Planets Laboratory (EPL) in Washington, D.C., on September 1, 2020. She has been a NASA Hubble Fellow at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, CA, since 2018. From 2014 to 2017 she was the Carnegie...
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A system of categorization that reflects not just a mineral’s chemistry and crystalline structure, but also the physical, chemical, or biological processes by which it formed, would be capable...
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Washington, D.C. — Scientists have long speculated about why there is a large change in the strength of rocks that lie at the boundary between two layers immediately under Earth’s crust: the...
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“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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Explore Carnegie Science

Rough diamond photograph purchased from iStock
December 21, 2020

Washington, DC— A diamond lasts forever, but that doesn’t mean all diamonds have a common history. 

Some diamonds were formed billions of years ago in space as the carbon-rich atmospheres of dying stars expanded and cooled. In our own planet’s lifetime, high-temperatures and pressures in the mantle produced the diamonds that are familiar to us as gems. 5,000 years ago, a large meteorite that struck a carbon-rich sediment on Earth produced an impact diamond.

Each of these diamonds differs from the others in both composition and genesis, but all are categorized as “diamond” by the authoritative guide to minerals—the International

Islands of Four Mountains, Alaska. USGS Photo by John Lyons.
December 3, 2020

Washington, DC— A small group of volcanic islands in Alaska's Aleutian chain could actually be part of a single, previously unrecognized giant volcano in the same category as Yellowstone, according to work from a research team, including Carnegie’s Diana Roman, Lara Wagner, Hélène Le Mével, and Daniel Portner, as well as recently departed postdoc Helen Janiszewski (now at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa), who will present their findings at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting next week.

The Islands of the Four Mountains in the central Aleutians is a tight group of six volcanos: Carlisle, Cleveland, Herbert, Kagamil, Tana and

Richard Carlson, Director Carnegie Earth and Planets Laboratory
November 24, 2020

Washington, DC— Richard Carlson, Director of Carnegie’s Earth and Planets Laboratory, has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was selected for his “outstanding research, leadership, innovation, and service to the community in geochemistry and geology.”

The tradition of AAAS Fellows began in 1874 and election for this honor is bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers. This year 489 members have been selected due to their “scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.” 

A Carnegie staff member since 1981, Carlson is widely recognized for his use

Saturn image is courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.
October 29, 2020

Washington, DC—New work led by Carnegie’s Matt Clement reveals the likely original locations of Saturn and Jupiter. These findings refine our understanding of the forces that determined our Solar System’s unusual architecture, including the ejection of an additional planet between Saturn and Uranus, ensuring that only small, rocky planets, like Earth, formed inward of Jupiter.

In its youth, our Sun was surrounded by a rotating disk of gas and dust from which the planets were born.  The orbits of early formed planets were thought to be initially close-packed and circular, but gravitational interactions between the larger objects perturbed the arrangement and

January 28, 2021

Join us to learn about exoplanet science from Johanna Teske, a former Carnegie postdoc who joined our Earth and Planets Laboratory as a Staff Scientist last September. This is the first virtual program in our winter series of online conversations with several of our exciting investigators.  

Teske’s work aims to help scientists better understand the planetary formation process and explain why there is such tremendous planetary diversity in our galaxy. She uses observational data from the telescopes at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory, as well as from space-based telescopes and other facilities, to estimate the interior and atmospheric

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 - 2003, CAN 3 from 2003 - 2008, and CAN 5 from 2009 - 2015. 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

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.

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

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,

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

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 measure tiny strains the Earth undergoes.

Strainmeter data has led to the discovery of events referred to as slow earthquakes that are similar to regular earthquakes except that the fault motions take place over much longer time scales. These were first detected in south-east Japan and have since been seen in a number of different environments including the San Andreas Fault in California and

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

Anat Shahar is pioneering a field that blends isotope geochemistry with high-pressure experiments to examine planetary cores and the Solar System’s formation, prior to planet formation, and how the planets formed and differentiated. Stable isotope geochemistry is the study of how physical and chemical processes can cause isotopes—atoms of an element with different numbers of neutrons-- to separate (called isotopic fractionation). Experimental petrology is a lab-based approach to increasing the pressure and temperature of materials to simulate conditions in the interior Earth or other planetary bodies.

Rocks and meteorites consist of isotopes that contain chemical