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 fingerprints of long-gone eras. The lighter isotopes, with fewer neutrons, partially separate from heavier isotopes (fractionation). The different ratios of these isotopes can reveal the physical and chemical changes these materials have undergone.

Comparing seismic measurements and information on materials, researchers know that Earth’s outer core is not pure iron and nickel; something lighter is there. One candidate is silicon, the most abundant element in the crust. Shahar and her colleagues developed a way to test the silicon hypothesis. They developed lab techniques to define how isotopes of silicon and iron separate between metals characteristic of the core and silicate of the mantle under Earth-forming high pressures and temperatures. The results were compared with isotopes found in rocks on Earth and the most primitive meteorites called chondrites. Chondrites contain tiny grains of dust from the period when the Solar System began to coalesce. They found that the core could contain as much as 6% silicon by weight.   

Shahar received her B.S. and M. Eng. from Cornell University in geological engineering and geological sciences respectively. She received her Ph. D. in geochemistry from UCLA. Before becoming a staff scientist in 2009 she was a Carnegie postdoctoral fellow. For more see http://anatshahar.carnegiescience.edu

 

Explore Carnegie Science

Artist’s impression of Barnard’s Star planet under the orange tinted light from the star.  Credit: IEEC/Science-Wave - Guillem Ramisa
November 14, 2018

Washington, DC—An international team including five Carnegie astronomers has discovered a frozen Super-Earth orbiting Barnard’s star, the closest single star to our own Sun. The Planet Finder Spectrograph on Carnegie’s Magellan II telescope was integral to the discovery, which is published in Nature.

Just six light-years from Earth, Barnard’s star is our fourth-closest neighboring star overall, after Alpha Centauri’s triple-star system. It is smaller and older than our Sun and among the least-active known red dwarfs.

To find this cold Super-Earth, the team—which included Carnegie’s Paul Butler, Johanna Teske, Jeff Crane, Steve

Mars mosaic courtesy of NASA
October 31, 2018

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 meteorites from a team led by Carnegie’s Andrew Steele published in Science Advances.

The group’s analysis of a trio of Martian meteorites that fell to Earth—Tissint, Nakhla, and NWA 1950—showed that they contain an inventory of organic carbon that is remarkably consistent with the organic carbon compounds detected by the Mars Science Laboratory’s rover missions.

In 2012, Steele led a team that determined the organic carbon found in 10 Martian

NASEM astrobiology briefing artwork
October 10, 2018

Washington, DC—NASA should incorporate astrobiology into all stages of future exploratory missions, according to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine presented Wednesday by the chair of the study, University of Toronto’s Barbara Sherwood Lollar, and by Carnegie’s Alan Boss, one of the report’s 17 expert authors.

Astrobiology addresses the factors that allowed life to originate and develop in the universe and investigates whether life exists on planets other than Earth. This highly interdisciplinary and constantly adapting field incorporates expertise in biology, chemistry, geology, planetary science, and physics.

October 4, 2018

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 and Moon.”

Stewart is currently a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of California Davis. Her group studies the formation and evolution of planetary bodies by using shock wave experiments to measure the properties of materials and conducting simulations of planetary processes. She was a Carnegie postdoctoral fellow from 2002 to 2003. For more see Macfound.org
 

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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

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 intended to foster entirely new directions of research by teams of scientists that ignore departmental boundaries. Up to six adventurous investigations may be funded each year. The period of the award is two

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 Ludington lab investigates complex ecological dynamics from microbial community interactions using the fruit fly  Drosophila melanogaster. The fruit fly gut carries numerous microbial species, which can be cultured in the lab. The goal is to understand the gut ecology and how it relates to host health, among other questions, by taking advantage of the fast time-scale and ease of studying the fruit fly in controlled experiments. 

Nick Konidaris is a staff scientist at the Carnegie Observatories and Instrument Lead for the SDSS-V Local Volume Mapper (LVM). He works on a broad range of new optical instrumentation projects in astronomy and remote sensing. Nick's projects range from experimental to large workhorse facilities. On the experimental side, he recently began working on a new development platform for the 40-inch Swope telescope at Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory that will be used to explore and understand the explosive universe.

 Nick and his colleagues at the Department of Global Ecology are leveraging the work on Swope to develop a new airborne spectrograph that will be

Experimental petrologist Michael Walter became director of the Geophysical Laboratory beginning April 1, 2018. His recent research has focused on the period early in Earth’s history, shortly after the planet accreted from the cloud of gas and dust surrounding our young Sun, when the mantle and the core first separated into distinct layers. Current topics of investigation also include the structure and properties of various compounds under the extreme pressures and temperatures found deep inside the planet, and information about the pressure, temperature, and chemical conditions of the mantle that can be gleaned from mineral impurities preserved inside diamonds.

Walter

Leopoldo Infante became the director of the Las Campanas Observatory on July 31, 2017.

Since 2009, Infante has been the founder and director of the Centre for Astro-Engineering at the Chilean university. He joined PUC as an assistant professor in 1990 and has been a full professor since 2006. He was one of the creators of PUC’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and served as its director from 2000 to 2006. He also established the Chilean Astronomical Society (SOCHIAS) and served as its president from 2009 to 2010.

Infante received his B.Sc. in physics at PUC. He then acquired a MSc. and Ph.D. in physics and astronomy from the University of Victoria in