Washington, D.C. — Around 250 million years ago, at the end of the Permian geologic period, there was a mass extinction so severe that it remains the most traumatic known species die-off in Earth’s...
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April 28, 2010 Speaker: Raymond Jeanloz Diamonds and lasers are used to re-create the extreme conditions present when planets are born – conditions that remain, billions of years later, deep...
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March 18, 2010 Speaker: Robert Hazen Evolution has long been a lightning rod for anti-science rhetoric. Such attacks are usually reserved for discussions of Darwinian evolution by natural selection,...
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CALL FOR PROPOSALS Following Andrew Carnegie’s founding encouragement of liberal discovery-driven research, the Carnegie Institution for Science offers its scientists a new resource for pursuing bold ideas. Carnegie Science Venture grants are internal awards of up to $100,000 that are...
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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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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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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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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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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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Explore Carnegie Science

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

GW Orionis Credit: ESO/Exeter/Kraus et al., ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)
September 3, 2020

Washington, DC— The discovery that our galaxy is teeming with exoplanets has also revealed the vast diversity of planetary systems out there and raised questions about the processes that shaped them. New work published in Science by an international team including Carnegie’s Jaehan Bae could explain the architecture of multi-star systems in which planets are separated by wide gaps and do not orbit on the same plane as their host star’s equatorial center.

“In our Solar System, the eight planets and many other minor objects orbit in a flat plane around the Sun; but in some distant systems, planets orbit on an incline—sometimes a very steep one,”

Earth's layers courtesy of Shutterstock
August 31, 2020

Washington, DC— The composition of Earth’s mantle was more shaped by interactions with the oceanic crust than previously thought, according to work from Carnegie’s Jonathan Tucker and Peter van Keken along with colleagues from Oxford that was recently published in Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems.

During its evolution, our planet separated into distinct layers—core, mantle, and crust. Each has its own composition and the dynamic processes through which these layers interact with their neighbors can teach us about Earth’s geologic history.

Plate tectonic processes allow for continuous evolution of the crust and play a key role in our planet

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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) or the top of the lower mantle. Understanding diamond origins and compositions of the high-pressure mineral phases has potential to revolutionize our understanding of deep mantle circulation.

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.

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

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.

Geochemist and director of Terrestrial Magnetism, now known as the Earth and Planets Laboratory, 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

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

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

Scott Sheppard studies the dynamical and physical properties of small bodies in our Solar System, such as asteroids, comets, moons and trans-neptunian objects (bodies that orbit beyond Neptune).  These objects have a fossilized imprint from the formation and migration of the major planets in our Solar System, which allow us to understand how the Solar System came to be.

The major planets in our Solar System travel around the Sun in fairly circular orbits and on similar planes. However, since the discovery of wildly varying planetary systems around other stars, and given our increased understanding about small, primordial bodies in our celestial neighborhood, the notion that