The planet Earth on April 17, 2019, courtesy NOAA/NASA EPIC Team.
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...
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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...
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Artist’s impression of the surface of the planet Proxima b courtesy of ESO/M. Kornmesser.
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 ...
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Images of diamonds from Sierra Leone with sulfur-containing mineral inclusions courtesy of the Gemological Institute of America
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...
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LaPaz Icefield 02342 seen here in thin section under polarized light courtesy of  Carles Moyano-Cambero.
Washington, DC—An ancient sliver of the building blocks from which comets formed was discovered encased inside a meteorite like an insect in amber by a Carnegie-led research team. The finding,...
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Artist's conception of HD 21749c, the first Earth-sized planet found by NASA's Transiting Exoplanets Survey Satellite (TESS) by Robin Dienel courtesy of Carnegie Institution for Science
Pasadena, CA—A nearby system hosts the first Earth-sized planet discovered by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanets Survey Satellite, as well as a warm sub-Neptune-sized world, according to a new...
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Artist's conception. Credit Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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...
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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.
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...
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Carnegie was once part of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). 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...
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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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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...
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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...
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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...
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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, DC— New work from a team including Carnegie’s Hanika Rizo and Richard Carlson, as well as Richard Walker from the University of Maryland, has found material in rock formations that dates...
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New work from an international team of researchers including Carnegie’s Lara Wagner improves our understanding of the geological activity that is thought to have formed the Rocky Mountains. It...
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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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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

Carnegie was once part of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). 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 minerals, and the connection between planetary evolution to the emergence, and sustenance of biology. This program integrated the narrative of life’s history through a combination of bottom-up and top-down studies including 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

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.

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 data from continental areas of the planet that have not been studied before to better understand the elastic properties of Earth’s crust and upper mantle, the rigid region called the lithosphere.

By its nature seismology is indirect research and has limitations for interpreting features like temperature, melting, and exact composition. So Wagner looks at the bigger picture. She

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

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

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,