GW Orionis Credit: ESO/Exeter/Kraus et al., ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)
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...
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Earth's layers courtesy of Shutterstock
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...
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Quartz crystals courtesy of Shutterstock.
Washington, DC— When a meteorite hurtles through the atmosphere and crashes to Earth, how does its violent impact alter the minerals found at the landing site? What can the short-lived chemical...
Explore this Story
Johanna Teske
Washington, DC— In September, astronomer Johanna Teske will join Carnegie’s Earth and Planets Laboratory as a Staff Scientist. Teske has been with Carnegie since 2014, first as the...
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Widmanstatten pattern characteristic of iron meteorites, courtesy of Peng Ni.
Washington, DC— Work led by Carnegie’s Peng Ni and Anat Shahar uncovers new details about our Solar System’s oldest planetary objects, which broke apart in long-ago collisions to...
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Earth's magnetic field shields it from ionizing particles
Washington, DC— How did the chemical makeup of our planet’s core shape its geologic history and habitability? Life as we know it could not exist without Earth’s magnetic field and...
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Washington, DC— Carnegie mineralogist Robert Hazen was inducted last month as a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences—the nation’s highest-level scientific society,...
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Comparing carbon's compatibility with silicates and with iron
Washington, DC— Carbon is essential for life as we know it and plays a vital role in many of our planet’s geologic processes—not to mention the impact that carbon released by human...
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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...
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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...
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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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Peter van Keken studies the thermal and chemical evolution of the Earth. In particularly he looks at the causes and consequences of plate tectonics; element modeling of mantle convection,  and the dynamics of subduction zones--locations where one tectonic plate slides under another. He also...
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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...
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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...
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Recent advances in our understanding of the quantities, movements, forms and origin of carbon in Earth are summarized in a just-published report. The research represents fast-paced progress on the...
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AudioWashington, D.C.— Reconstructing the rise of life during the period of Earth’s history when it first evolved is challenging. Earth’s oldest sedimentary rocks are not only rare, but also almost...
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Washington, DC— A team of scientists including Carnegie’s Dina Bower and Andrew Steele weigh in on whether microstructures found in 3.46 billion-year-old samples of a silica-rich rock called chert...
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Explore Carnegie Science

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

Quartz crystals courtesy of Shutterstock.
August 26, 2020

Washington, DC— When a meteorite hurtles through the atmosphere and crashes to Earth, how does its violent impact alter the minerals found at the landing site? What can the short-lived chemical phases created by these extreme impacts teach scientists about the minerals existing at the high-temperature and pressure conditions found deep inside the planet?

New work led by Carnegie’s Sally June Tracy examined the crystal structure of the silica mineral quartz under shock compression and is challenging longstanding assumptions about how this ubiquitous material behaves under such intense conditions. The results are published in Science Advances.

"Quartz is one

Johanna Teske
August 19, 2020

Washington, DC— In September, astronomer Johanna Teske will join Carnegie’s Earth and Planets Laboratory as a Staff Scientist. Teske has been with Carnegie since 2014, first as the inaugural Carnegie Origins Postdoctoral Fellow and currently as a NASA Hubble Fellow. 

“I’m thrilled to be able to continue my career at Carnegie and to be the first Staff Scientist hired at the newly formed EPL,” Teske said. “This institution has shaped my approach to research and I am excited to advance to the next stage of my career as one of its faculty.”   

Teske’s work aims to help scientists better understand the

September 24, 2020

Earth is unique amongst the rocky planets in having two very different types of crust. Continental crust is composed primarily of silica-rich rocks like the granite of your kitchen countertops. Oceanic crust is instead almost entirely a black magnesium and iron-rich volcanic rock, basalt, like that erupted in Hawaii. The continental crust juts above water because it is thick and granite is less dense than basalt so it floats higher on top of Earth’s interior. Oceanic crust sinks back into Earth’s interior on hundred-million-year timescales. In contrast, the buoyancy of continental crust allows it to survive longer at Earth’s surface. Even so, only a very small portion

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.

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

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).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

Scientists simulate the high pressures and temperatures of planetary interiors to measure their physical properties. Yingwei Fei studies the composition and structure of planetary interiors with high-pressure instrumentation including the multianvil apparatus, the piston cylinder, and the diamond anvil cell. 

The Earth was formed through energetic and dynamic processes. Giant impacts, radioactive elements, and gravitational energy heated the  planet in its early stage, melting materials and paving the way for the silicate mantle and metallic core to separate.  As the planet cooled and solidified geochemical and geophysical “fingerprints” resulted from

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

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 focuses on understanding changes in seismicity and stress in response to the migration of magma through volcanic conduits, and on developing techniques and strategies for monitoring active or restless volcanoes through the analysis of high-frequency volcanic seismicity.

Roman is also interested in understanding the seismicity at quiet volcanoes, tectonic and hidden volcanic

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