“It was probably the runt of the family,” Scott Sheppard tells the L.A. Times of the theorized ninth planet. Sheppard's 2014 co-discovery of the planetoid 2012 VP113, popularly...
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"Estimates range as high as there being one habitable Earth-like planet for every star in our galaxy. As someone who has lived through the ups and downs of the history of the field of...
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Smithsonian Magazine talks Bob Hazen about "Life's Rocky Start" the NOVA special that features his work on mineral evolution and ecology. “We see this intertwined co-...
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Washington, DC— A team made up almost entirely of current and former Carnegie scientists has discovered a highly unusual planetary system comprised of a Sun-like star, a dwarf star, and an...
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Washington, DC— As astronomers continue to find more and more planets around stars beyond our own Sun, they are trying to discover patterns and features that indicate what types of planets are...
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Washington, D.C.—New observations from an international geophysics team, including Carnegie’s Lara Wagner, suggest that the standard belief that the Earth’s rigid tectonic plates...
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“We can’t explain these objects’ orbits from what we know about the solar system,” says Carnegie's Scott Sheppard in Science Magazine's coverage of his announcement at...
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Not only did our early Solar System potentially consist of five or even six giant worlds, but there may have been a large number of inner, terrestrial planets that were ejected back in the Solar...
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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...
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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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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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Cosmochemist Larry Nittler studies extraterrestrial materials, including meteorites and interplanetary dust particles (IDPs), to understand the formation of the Solar System, the galaxy, and the universe and to identify the materials involved. He is particularly interested in developing new...
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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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Geochemist and director of Terrestrial Magnetism, 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...
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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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Move over Jupiter; Saturn is the new moon king. A team led by Carnegie's Scott S. Sheppard has found 20 new moons orbiting Saturn. This brings the ringed planet’s total number of moons to...
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New work from Carnegie’s Stephen Elardo and Anat Shahar shows that interactions between iron and nickel under the extreme pressures and temperatures similar to a planetary interior can help...
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Explore Carnegie Science

April 15, 2020

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, originally founded by Peter the Great. This is a rare honor for an American researcher.

The ceremony, originally scheduled for the end of March, was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Staff Scientist at Carnegie’s Earth and Planets Laboratory, Hazen pioneered the concept of mineral evolution—linking an explosion in mineral diversity to the rise of life on Earth—and developed  the idea of mineral ecology—which analyzes the spatial distribution of the

Comparing carbon's compatibility with silicates and with iron
March 31, 2020

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 activity has on the planet’s atmosphere and oceans. Despite this, the total amount of carbon on Earth is a mystery, because much of it remains inaccessible in the planet’s depths.  

New work published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals how carbon behaved during Earth’s violent formative period. The findings can help scientists understand how much carbon likely exists in the planet’s core and the contributions it could make

 Illustration of DS Tuc AB by M. Weiss, CfA.
March 9, 2020

Pasadena, CA— A new kind of astronomical observation helped reveal the possible evolutionary history of a baby Neptune-like exoplanet.

To study a very young planet called DS Tuc Ab, a Harvard & Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics-led team that included six Carnegie astronomers—Johanna Teske, Sharon Wang, Stephen Shectman, Paul Butler, Jeff Crane, and Ian Thompson—developed a new observational modeling tool. Their work will be published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and represents the first time the orbital tilt of a planet younger than 45 million years—or about 1/100th the age of the Solar System—has been measured.

“A

Artist’s concept by Robin Dienel, courtesy Carnegie Science
March 2, 2020

Pasadena, CA—Some of the extremely low-density, “cotton candy like” exoplanets called super-puffs may actually have rings, according to new research published in The Astronomical Journal by Carnegie’s Anthony Piro and Caltech’s Shreyas Vissapragada.

Super-puffs are notable for having exceptionally large radii for their masses—which would give them seemingly incredibly low densities. The adorably named bodies have been confounding scientists since they were first discovered, because they are unlike any planets in our Solar System and challenge our ideas of what distant planets can be like.

“We started thinking, what if these planets

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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 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.

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

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.

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,

Andrew Steele uses traditional and biotechnological approaches for the detection of microbial life in the field of astrobiology and Solar System exploration. Astrobiology is the search for the origin and distribution of life in the universe. A microbiologist by training, his principle interest is in developing protocols, instrumentation, and procedures for life detection in samples from the early Earth and elsewhere in the Solar System.

Steele has developed several instrument and mission concepts for future Mars missions and became involved in the 2011 Mars Science Laboratory mission as a member of the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) team. For  a number of years he journeyed to

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

Roiling cauldrons of liquid-laden material flow within Earth’s rocky interior. Understanding how this matter moves and changes is essential to deciphering Earth’s formation and evolution as well as the processes that create seismic activity, such as earthquakes and volcanoes. Bjørn Mysen probes this hidden environment in the laboratory and, based on his results, models can help explain what goes on in this remote realm.

Mysen investigates changes in the atomic properties of molten silicates at high pressures and temperatures that pervade the interior Earth. Silicates comprise most of the Earth's crust and mantle. He uses devices, such as the diamond anvil

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