Washington, D.C.— Comets and asteroids preserve the building blocks of our Solar System and should help explain its origin. But there are unsolved puzzles. For example, how did icy comets obtain...
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Washington, D.C. — In order to understand Earth's earliest history--its formation from Solar System material into the present-day layering of metal core and mantle, and crust--scientists look to...
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Washington, DC —Scientists have long believed that comets and, or a type of very primitive meteorite called carbonaceous chondrites were the sources of early Earth's volatile elements—which include...
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Washington, D.C.—Although there have been about 800 extra-solar planets discovered so far in our galaxy, the precise masses of the majority of them are still unknown, as the most-common planet-...
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Washington, D.C. — Mineral evolution posits that Earth’s near-surface mineral diversity gradually increased through an array of chemical and biological processes. A dozen different species in...
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Washington, D.C.—Until now, Earth was the only planet known to have vast reservoirs of water in its interior. Scientists analyzed the water content of two Martian meteorites originating from inside...
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Washington, DC — Molecules containing large chains of carbon and hydrogen--the building blocks of all life on Earth--have been the targets of missions to Mars from Viking to the present day. While...
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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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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...
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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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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...
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Seismic waves flow through Earth’s solid and liquid material differently, allowing Earth scientists to determine various aspects of the composition of the Earth’s interior. Broadband seismology looks at a broad spectrum of waves for high-resolution imaging. Lara Wagner collects this...
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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...
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The world’s 2500 rarest minerals have now been categorised for the first time, revealing intriguing implications. Most have been formed in processes directly or indirectly related to living...
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“I think there are definitely things out there bigger than Pluto that are yet to be discovered,” Scott Sheppard talks to The Washington Post about the possibility of an undiscovered outer...
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Washington, D.C. — Mineral evolution posits that Earth’s near-surface mineral diversity gradually increased through an array of chemical and biological processes. A dozen different species in...
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Image Credit: NASA, ESA, JPL, SSI, Cassini Imaging Team
December 9, 2019

Washington, DC— Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus is of great interest to scientists due to its subsurface ocean, making it a prime target for those searching for life elsewhere. New research led by Carnegie’s Doug Hemingway reveals the physics governing the fissures through which ocean water erupts from the moon’s icy surface, giving its south pole an unusual “tiger stripe” appearance.

“First seen by the Cassini mission to Saturn, these stripes are like nothing else known in our Solar System,” lead author Hemingway explained. “They are parallel and evenly spaced, about 130 kilometers long and 35 kilometers apart. What makes them

Artist’s conception of Kepler-432b, courtesy of MarioProtIV/Wikimedia Commons.
December 3, 2019

Pasadena, CA— A surprising analysis of the composition  of gas giant exoplanets and their host stars shows that there isn’t a strong correlation between their compositions when it comes to elements heavier than hydrogen and helium, according to new work led by Carnegie’s Johanna Teske and published in The Astronomical Journal. This finding has important implications for our understanding of the planetary formation process. 

In their youths, stars are surrounded by a rotating disk of gas and dust from which planets are born. Astronomers have long wondered how much a star’s makeup determines the raw material from which planets are constructed—

Artist's conception by Robin Dienel, courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Sc
October 16, 2019

Washington, DC— What does a gestating baby planet look like? New research in Nature by a team including Carnegie’s Jaehan Bae investigated the effects of three planets in the process of forming around a young star, revealing the source of their atmospheres.

In their youth, stars are surrounded by a rotating disk of gas and dust from which planets are born. Studying the behavior of the material that makes up these disks can reveal new details about planet formation, and about the evolution of a planetary system as a whole.

The disk around a young star called HD 163296 is known to include several rings and gaps. Using 3-D visualizations taken by the Atacama Large

Saturn image is courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.
October 7, 2019

Washington, DC—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 82, surpassing Jupiter, which has 79. The discovery was announced Monday by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center.

Each of the newly discovered moons is about five kilometers, or three miles, in diameter. Seventeen of them orbit the planet backwards, or in a retrograde direction, meaning their movement is opposite of the planet's rotation around its axis. The other three moons orbit in the prograde—the same direction

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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 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,

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

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

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

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 planetary systems to understand their formation history and to determine the best way to predict the existence and frequency of smaller Earth-like worlds.

As part of this research, Chambers explores the basic physical, chemical, and dynamical aspects that led to the formation of our own Solar System--an event that is still poorly understood. His ultimate goal is to determine if similar

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

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 techniques to analyze different variants of the same atom—isotopes—in small samples. In related studies, he uses space-based X-ray and gamma-ray instrumentation to determine the composition of planetary surfaces. He was part of the 2000-2001 scientific team to hunt for meteorites in Antarctica.

Nittler is especially interested in presolar grains contained in meteorites and in what

Hélène Le Mével studies volcanoes. Her research focuses on understanding the surface signals that ground deformations make to infer the ongoing process of the moving magma  in the underlying reservoir. Toward this end she uses space and field-based geodesy--the mathematics of the area and shape of the Earth--to identify, model and interpret this ground deformation.

She uses data from radar called Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR), and data from the Global Positioning System (GPS) to characterize ground motion during volcanic unrest. She also collects gravity data, which indicate changes in mass and/or density underground. These data sets,