Washington, DC—A team of researchers including Carnegie’s Bob Hazen is using network analysis techniques—made popular through social media applications—to find patterns in Earth’s natural history, as...
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Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science, Bradley Peters
Washington, DC—Plumes of hot magma from the volcanic hotspot that formed Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean rise from an unusually primitive source deep beneath the Earth’s surface, according to new...
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Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science, Miki Nakajima and Dave Stevenson
Washington, DC—It’s amazing what a difference a little water can make. The Moon formed between about 4.4 and 4.5 billion years ago when an object collided with the still-forming proto-Earth. This...
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Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science, courtesy of NASA/JPL, slightly modified by Jonathan Gagné.
Washington, DC— Brown dwarfs, the larger cousins of giant planets, undergo atmospheric changes from cloudy to cloudless as they age and cool. A team of astronomers led by Carnegie’s Jonathan Gagné...
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Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science, Smithsonian Institution, Colin Jackson
Washington, DC— Plumes of hot rock surging upward from the Earth’s mantle at volcanic hotspots contain evidence that the Earth’s formative years may have been even more chaotic than previously...
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Many people have heard of Pangaea, the supercontinent that included all continents on Earth and began to break up about 175 million years ago. But before Pangaea, Earth’s landmasses ripped apart and...
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Postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM), Miki Nakajima, has been awarded the eighth Postdoctoral Innovation and Excellence Award (PIE). These prizes are made through...
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Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science, NASA/JPL-Caltech
Washington, DC— New work from a team of Carnegie scientists (and one Carnegie alumnus) asked whether any gas giant planets could potentially orbit TRAPPIST-1 at distances greater than that of the...
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Carnegie's Paul Butler has been leading work on a multiyear project to carry out the first reconnaissance of all 2,000 nearby Sun-like stars within 150 light-years of the solar system (1 lightyear is about 9.4 trillion kilometers). His team is currently monitoring about 1,700 stars, including 1,000...
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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....
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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...
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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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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...
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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...
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A team of researchers including Carnegie’s Bob Hazen is using network analysis techniques—made popular through social media applications—to find patterns in Earth’s natural history. By using network...
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Even though carbon is one of the most-abundant elements on Earth, it is actually very difficult to determine how much of it exists below the surface in Earth’s interior. Analysis by Carnegie’s Marion...
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Several of our geochemistry, cosmochemistry, and astrobiology experts at Carnegie's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism and Geophysical Laboratory study the Moon—how it formed and the source of its...
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April 23, 2018

Washington, DC—A team of researchers including Carnegie’s Bob Hazen is using network analysis techniques—made popular through social media applications—to find patterns in Earth’s natural history, as detailed in a paper published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. 

By using network analysis to search for communities of marine life in the fossil records of the Paleobiology Database, the team—including researchers at Harvard University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute—was able to quantify the ecological impacts of major events like mass extinctions. Their work may help humanity anticipate the consequences of a “sixth mass extinction,” which the rate of species

Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science, Bradley Peters
February 27, 2018

Washington, DC—Plumes of hot magma from the volcanic hotspot that formed Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean rise from an unusually primitive source deep beneath the Earth’s surface, according to new work in Nature from Carnegie’s Bradley Peters, Richard Carlson, and Mary Horan along with James Day of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Réunion marks the present-day location of the hotspot that 66 million years ago erupted the Deccan Traps flood basalts, which cover most of India and may have contributed to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Flood basalts and other hotspot lavas are thought to originate from different portions of Earth’s deep interior than most volcanoes at

Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science, Miki Nakajima and Dave Stevenson
February 26, 2018

Washington, DC—It’s amazing what a difference a little water can make.

The Moon formed between about 4.4 and 4.5 billion years ago when an object collided with the still-forming proto-Earth. This impact created a hot and partially vaporized disk of material that rotated around the baby planet, eventually cooling and accreting into the Moon.

For years, scientists thought that in the aftermath of the collision hydrogen dissociated from water molecules and it and other elements that have low boiling temperatures, so-called “volatile elements,” escaped from the disk and were lost to space. This would lead to a dry and volatile element-depleted Moon, which seemed to be

Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science, courtesy of NASA/JPL, slightly modified by Jonathan Gagné.
February 26, 2018

Washington, DC— Brown dwarfs, the larger cousins of giant planets, undergo atmospheric changes from cloudy to cloudless as they age and cool. A team of astronomers led by Carnegie’s Jonathan Gagné measured for the first time the temperature at which this shift happens in young brown dwarfs. Their findings, published by The Astrophysical Journal Letters, may help them better understand how gas giant planets like our own Solar System’s Jupiter evolved.

Brown dwarfs are too small to sustain the hydrogen fusion process that fuels stars and allows them to remain hot and bright for a long time. After formation, brown dwarfs slowly cool down and contract over time—at some point shifting

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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 structure,

The NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) Carnegie Team focuses 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 attempts to integrate the sweeping narrative of life’s history through a combination of bottom-up and top-down studies. On the one hand, this team studies processes related to chemical and physical evolution in plausible prebiotic

Carnegie's Paul Butler has been leading work on a multiyear project to carry out the first reconnaissance of all 2,000 nearby Sun-like stars within 150 light-years of the solar system (1 lightyear is about 9.4 trillion kilometers). His team is currently monitoring about 1,700 stars, including 1,000 Northern Hemisphere stars with the Keck telescope in Hawaii and the UCO Lick Observatory telescope in California, and 300 Southern Hemisphere stars with the Anglo-Australian telescope in New South Wales, Australia. The remaining Southern Hemisphere stars are being surveyed with Carnegie's new Magellan telescopes in Chile. By 2010 the researchers hope to have completed their planetary census.

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,

Erik Hauri studies how planetary processes affect the chemistry of the Earth, Moon and other objects. He also uses that chemistry to understand the origin and evolution of planetary bodies.

The minerals that are stable in planetary interiors determine how major elements such as silicon, magnesium, iron, calcium, aluminum, titanium, sodium and sometimes water are distributed, and how they behave when melting occurs and  when magmas are generated and transported to the surface in volcanoes.

The presence of water, carbon and other so-called volatiles have a large influence on the strength and melting point of planetary interiors. This in turn determines where magmas are

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 our

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 the Earth’s inner core structure; core-mantle coupling; tectonic-volatile cycling; orbital migration—how Earth’s orbit moves—and tidal dissipation—the dissipation of tidal forces between two closely orbiting bodies. He is also interested in planetary interiors, dynamos, upper planetary atmospheres and exoplanets—planets orbiting other stars. He uses large-scale numerical simulations in much of his research

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 facto