Washington, D.C.—Earth's magnetic field is generated by the motion of liquid iron in the planet's core. This “geodynamo” occasionally reverses its polarity—the...
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Jackie Faherty talks to Runner's World about spotting Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter during a single early morning run....
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Through late February, five planets will align in early morning sky, and can be seen unaided. Jackie Faherty tells NPR it is like the planetary Academy Awards....
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“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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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...
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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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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...
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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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Geochemist and director of Terrestrial Magnetism, now known as the Earth and Planets Laboratory, 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...
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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...
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Washington, DC— New work from Carnegie’s Alan Boss offers a potential solution to a longstanding problem in the prevailing theory of how rocky planets formed in our own Solar System, as well as in...
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Diana Roman’s job sounds like a blast. Pun very much intended. Although many people find volcanoes scary, she knows how to make them fun and, more importantly, fascinating. A staff scientist at...
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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 form iron-rich...
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Explore Carnegie Science

Carnegie mineralogist Robert Hazen
May 28, 2021

Washington, DC—Carnegie Mineralogist Robert Hazen—who advanced the concept that Earth’s geology was shaped by the rise and sustenance of life—will be honored with the 2022 International Mineralogical Association’s Medal for Excellence. The prize recognizes “outstanding scientific publication in the field of mineralogical sciences.”

The medal was created to honor a lifetime of achievement in and outstanding contributions to the fields of mineralogy, geochemistry, petrology, crystallography, and applied mineralogy.  Hazen will be its 11th recipient.

A Staff Scientist at Carnegie’s Earth and Planets Laboratory, Hazen

 Photo of inclusions in a super-deep diamond by Evan Smith/© 2021 GIA
May 26, 2021

Washington, DC— The cause of Earth’s deepest earthquakes has been a mystery to science for more than a century, but a team of Carnegie scientists may have cracked the case.

New research published in AGU Advances provides evidence that fluids play a key role in deep-focus earthquakes—which occur between 300 and 700 kilometers below the planet’s surface. The research team includes Carnegie scientists Steven Shirey, Lara Wagner, Peter van Keken, and Michael Walter, as well as the University of Alberta’s Graham Pearson.

Most earthquakes occur close to the Earth’s surface, down to about 70 kilometers.  They happen when stress builds up at

A violent stellar flare erupting on Proxima Centauri. Credit: NRAO/S. Dagnello.
April 21, 2021

Washington, DC— A team of astronomers including Carnegie’s Alycia Weinberger and former-Carnegie postdoc Meredith MacGregor, now an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, spotted an extreme outburst, or flare, from the Sun’s nearest neighbor—the star Proxima Centauri.

Their work, which could help guide the search for life beyond our Solar System, is published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Proxima Centauri is a “red dwarf” with about one-eighth the mass of our Sun, which sits just four light-years, or almost 25 trillion miles, from the center of our Solar System and hosts at least two planets, one of which may

Lava deposits in Leilani Estates (Credit: B. Shiro, USGS)
April 7, 2021

Washington, DC— The 2018 eruption of Kīlauea Volcano in Hawai‘i provided scientists with an unprecedented opportunity to identify new factors that could help forecast the hazard potential of future eruptions.

The properties of the magma inside a volcano affect how an eruption will play out. In particular, the viscosity of this molten rock is a major factor in influencing how hazardous an eruption could be for nearby communities.

Very viscous magmas are linked with more powerful explosions because they can block gas from escaping through vents, allowing pressure to build up inside the volcano’s plumbing system. On the other hand, extrusion of more viscous

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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

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.

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 most cases, the orbital inclination of these objects is not yet determined, which is why most should still be considered candidate planets. The WGESP ended its six years of existence in August 2006, with the decision of the IAU to create a new commission dedicated to extrasolar planets as a part of Division III of the IAU. The founding president of Commission 53 is Michael Mayor, in honor of

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

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 fingerprints, of the oxygen isotopes 16O, 17O, and 18O. Weathering, ground water, and direct deposition of atmospheric aerosols change the ratios of the isotopes in a rock revealing a lot about the past climate.

Douglas Rumble’s research is centered on these three stable isotopes of oxygen and the four stable isotopes of sulfur 32S , 33S , 34S, and 36S. In addition to

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

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