Caltech Geobiologists Uncover Links between Ancient Climate Change and Mass Extinction

About 450 million years ago, Earth suffered the second-largest mass extinction in its history—the Late Ordovician mass extinction, during which more than 75 percent of marine species died. Exactly what caused this tremendous loss in biodiversity remains a mystery, but now a team led by researchers at Caltech has discovered new details supporting the idea that the mass extinction was linked to a cooling climate.

New Flume On the Block

Last Wednesday morning, Caltech received a rather large delivery. About 50 feet long and 5 feet wide, a big black chunk of metal was unloaded from a truck and slowly pushed into the Central Engineering Services Building.

Thomas J. Ahrens, 74

Thomas J. Ahrens, the Fletcher Jones Professor of Geophysics, Emeritus, at Caltech, died at his home in Pasadena on November 24. He was 74.

 

Recent News on the Debate over Pluto's Planethood

Earlier this month, Eris—the distant world first discovered by Caltech's Mike Brown and colleagues back in 2005, paving the way for the eventual demotion of Pluto from planet to dwarf planet—passed fortuitously in front of a faint star in the constellation Cetus. That passage, or occultation, allowed the first direct measurement of Eris's size.

Caltech Receives $10 Million in Gifts to Help Launch New Terrestrial Hazard Center

Caltech has established the Terrestrial Hazard Observation and Reporting Center (THOR), funded by $6.7 million from Foster and Coco Stanback, and $3.35 million from the Gordon and Betty Moore matching program.

 

Caltech Mineral Physicists Find New Scenery at Earth's Core-Mantle Boundary

Using a diamond-anvil cell to recreate the high pressures deep within the earth, researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have found unusual properties in an iron-rich magnesium- and iron-oxide mineral that may explain the existence of several ultra-low velocity zones (ULVZs) at the core-mantle boundary. A paper about their findings was published in a recent issue of Geophysical Research Letters (GRL).

New View of Tectonic Plates

Computational scientists and geophysicists at the University of Texas at Austin and Caltech have developed new computer algorithms that for the first time allow for the simultaneous modeling of the earth's mantle flow, large-scale tectonic plate motions, and the behavior of individual fault zones, to produce an unprecedented view of plate tectonics and the forces that drive it.

NRC Recommends Three Astronomy/Astrophysics Projects with Potential Major Caltech Roles

In an announcement August 13, the National Research Council recommended three space- and ground-based astronomy and astrophysics projects with potential major roles for researchers at Caltech: CCAT, a giant submillimeter telescope that will help unravel the origins of stars, planets, and galaxies; LISA, designed to detect gravitational waves; and the development of a Giant Segmented Mirrored Telescope—the Thirty Meter Telescope being one of two such telescopes under development.

Caltech, Canadian Space Agency Awarded NASA Project to Develop Spectrometer Headed to Mars

Caltech and the Canadian Space Agency announced today that they will be partnering on the development of the Mars Atmospheric Trace Molecule Occultation Spectrometer (MATMOS) instrument to be flown aboard the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter when it launches in 2016.

Caltech Team Finds Evidence of Water in Moon Minerals

That dry, dusty moon overhead? Seems it isn't quite as dry as it's long been thought to be. Although you won't find oceans, lakes, or even a shallow puddle on its surface, a team of geologists has found structurally bound hydroxyl groups (i.e., water) in a mineral in a lunar rock returned to Earth by the Apollo program.

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