Lava field with snow

Research at DTM stretches from our world to the edge of the Universe.

The Department of Terrestrial Magnetism was founded in 1904 to map the geomagnetic field of the Earth. Over the years the research direction shifted, but the historic goal to understand the Earth and its place in the universe has remained the same. Today the department is home to an interdisciplinary team of astronomers and astrophysicists, geophysicists and geochemists, cosmochemists and planetary scientists.

These Carnegie researchers are discovering planets outside our solar system, determining the age and structure of the solar system, and studying the causes of earthquakes and volcanoes. With colleagues from the Geophysical Laboratory, these investigators are also helping to define the new and exciting field of astrobiology.

Chondritic meteorite

The Relationship Between Chondrite Matrices and Interplanetary Dust Particles

Primitive meteorites, chondrites are fragments of asteroids that have fallen to Earth. They preserve a record of the earliest stages of Solar System and planet formation. Chondrites are composed of two major components, chondrules and matrix. Chondrules formed as molten droplets in short-lived, high temperature events in the solar protoplanetary disk (nebula). If their abundance in chondrites is anything to go by, chondrules were produced by one of the more energetic processes operating in the early Solar System. What that process was still remains mysterious.

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Evolution of Hydrogen in the Inner Solar System

The goal of this project is to begin a detailed study of the hydrogen content and isotopic compositions of H and O in calcium-aluminum rich inclusions (CAIs) and chondrules from primitive chondritic meteorites. CAIs are the oldest objects in chondritic meteorites, containing 26Mg derived from the decay of 26Al (half-life of 717,000 years) in the first few million years of solar system history.

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DTM Diana Roman, quick deploy seismic station. Credit: Diana Roman.

The Carnegie Quick Deploy Box (QDB)

The Carnegie Quick Deploy Box (QDB) is a compact and cost-effective self-contained broadband seismic station, facilitating deployment during rapid response and large array situations. The QDB includes everything needed for an intermediate period station install (except battery and shovel) contained in a single box used for both shipment and field installation. The box is small enough (~13"x13"x21") and lightweight enough (< 35 lbs) to be checked as airline luggage. Traditional broadband field installations are typically time consuming and require bulky construction materials, limiting the number of stations that can be installed from a single vehicle without repeated trips to a storage facility. The sensor and the solar panels are connected to the recorder and battery inside the waterproof Pelican case via waterproof pre-installed bulkhead plug fittings. Everything fits in the box for shipping except the battery, and everything in the box stays in the field for easy demobilization at the end of the project.

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Proxima b

The Earthbound Planet Search

Finding planets orbiting nearby stars has been a holy grail in astronomy for more than 400 years. We began working on this problem 30 years ago, at a time when there were no known extrasolar planets. In late 1995 we began routinely finding planets around the nearest stars. Since then we have found several hundred planets, including the first sub-saturn mass planet, the first neptune mass planet, the first terrestrial mass planet, the first multiple planet system, and the first transiting planet.

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Large Binocular Telescope Hunt for Observable Signatures of Terrestrial Planetary Systems (LBTI-HOSTS)

The purpose of this survey is to detect or limit warm dust in the habitable zones of nearby stars. About 20% of field stars have cold debris disks created by the collisions and evaporation of planetesimals. Much less is known about warm circumstellar dust, such as that found in the vicinity of the Earth in our own system. This dust is generated in asteroidal collisions and cometary breakups, and current detection limits are at best ~500 times our system's level, i.e. 500 zodi. LBTI-HOSTS will be the first survey capable of measuring exozodi at the 10 zodi level (3). Exozodi of this brightness would be the major source of astrophysical noise for a future space telescope aimed at direct imaging and spectroscopy of habitable zone terrestrial planets. Detections of warm dust will also reveal new information about planetary system architectures and evolution.

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Superdeep diamonds

Superdeep Diamonds and Mantle Convection

Superdeep diamonds are derived from below the continental lithosphere and most likely from the transition zone (670km deep) or the top of the lower mantle. A full understanding of their origins and the compositions of the high-pressure mineral phases has potential to revolutionize our understanding of deep mantle circulation.

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Kepler NASA/Ames/JPL

Kepler: A Search for Habitable Planets

Alan P. Boss - Science Working Group Member

Kepler is NASA's 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 (i.e., 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.

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Search for Exoplanets

DTM has undertaken a new search for Jupiter-like planets in orbit around nearby stars. Using the 2.5-m du Pont telescope located at Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, we are searching for gas giant planets similar to Jupiter by the astrometric method. In this method, the wobble of the host star's position on the sky as it orbits around the center of mass of the star-planet system is measured with high accuracy. Knowing the mass of the star then allows the true mass of the planet, as well as its orbital parameters (including the semi-major axis, eccentricity, and inclination), to be determined.

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