Images of diamonds from Sierra Leone with sulfur-containing mineral inclusions courtesy of the Gemological Institute of America
Washington, DC— The longevity of Earth’s continents in the face of destructive tectonic activity is an essential geologic backdrop for the emergence of life on our planet. This stability...
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LaPaz Icefield 02342 seen here in thin section under polarized light courtesy of  Carles Moyano-Cambero.
Washington, DC—An ancient sliver of the building blocks from which comets formed was discovered encased inside a meteorite like an insect in amber by a Carnegie-led research team. The finding,...
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Artist's conception of HD 21749c, the first Earth-sized planet found by NASA's Transiting Exoplanets Survey Satellite (TESS) by Robin Dienel courtesy of Carnegie Institution for Science
Pasadena, CA—A nearby system hosts the first Earth-sized planet discovered by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanets Survey Satellite, as well as a warm sub-Neptune-sized world, according to a new...
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Artist's conception. Credit Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Washington, DC—Carnegie’s Andrew Steele is a member of the Earth First Origins project, led by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Karyn Rogers, which has been awarded a $9 million...
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Self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover on Vera Rubin Ridge with Mount Sharp poking up just behind the vehicle's mast. Image is courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS Curiosity.
Washington, DC—The density of rock layers on the terrain that climbs from the base of Mars’ Gale Crater to Mount Sharp is less dense than expected, according to the latest report on the...
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Artist concept of 2018 VG18, nicknamed "Farout.” Illustration by Roberto Molar Candanosa is courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science.
Washington, DC— A team of astronomers has discovered the most-distant body ever observed in our Solar System.  It is the first known Solar System object that has been detected at a...
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Artist’s impression of Barnard’s Star planet under the orange tinted light from the star.  Credit: IEEC/Science-Wave - Guillem Ramisa
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...
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Mars mosaic courtesy of NASA
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...
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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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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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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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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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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. Bjø...
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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...
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Washington, D.C.—A team of scientists, including Carnegie’s Alan Boss, has discovered two Earth-like planets in the habitable orbit of a Sun-like star. Their work is published in Science Express.  ...
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A joint study between Carnegie and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has determined that the average temperature of Earth’s mantle beneath ocean basins is about 110 degrees Fahrenheit (...
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Washington, D.C.—Hydrocarbons from the Earth make up the oil and gas that heat our homes and fuel our cars. The study of the various phases of molecules formed from carbon and hydrogen under high...
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Explore Carnegie Science

Earth's magnetic field shields it from ionizing particles
July 6, 2020

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 its ability to deflect dangerous ionizing particles from the solar wind and more far-flung cosmic rays. It is continuously generated by the motion of liquid iron in Earth’s outer core, a phenomenon called the geodynamo.

Despite its fundamental importance, many questions remain unanswered about the geodynamo’s origin and the energy sources that have sustained it over the millennia.

New work from an international team of researchers, including current and former

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.


July 30, 2020

Join us to learn about how to study the mineralogy of another planet from Carnegie Research Scientist Shaunna Morrison. This is the ninth virtual program in a series of online conversations with several of our exciting investigators.  

Minerals are novel combinations of elements. At our Earth and Planets Laboratory, Morrison uses data-driven approaches to study the forces that shaped a mineral's formation in a particular location. She and her collaborators use advanced computing tools to probe for connections in the makeup of Earth's minerals that can tell us about our planet's current and historical geologic cycles and how the geosphere

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

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 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

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.

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.

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

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

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

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