Origins: Planets, Stars and Life

Planets, including Earth, are the natural products of star formation.  Our research investigates the origin and chemical evolution of the Earth and other planets and planetary systems, their early environments, and the evolution of life. Our goal is to understand the formation of the Solar System and our place in it.

We do field work in ancient rock terranes to learn when and how Earth became habitable and teeming with life.  We bring pieces of other planets and extinct stars into our laboratories and look back in time to the dust and gas of the solar nebula. We look deep inside the Earth to see the remnants of processes that occurred billions of years ago, and how they affect us today. We visit other planets remotely to determine why those places are so different from Earth.

The science that we do is interdisciplinary and international in scope, linking RSES with astronomers, biologists, chemists, and physicists around the world. By developing and applying advanced new technologies for laboratory, computational and field-based analysis, we strive to find innovative answers to difficult and exciting questions.

The overarching question for this research theme is: how did the Earth and other planets in our Solar System form and evolve?

  • What processes create planets from a solar nebula?
  • Why are the surface environments of planets in our Solar System so different?
  • What are the relationships between surface geology, geochemistry and the dynamics of the deep interior of the Earth, Moon, and Mars?
  • What made the early Earth habitable and how did life get to where it is today?

 

Theme Facilitators

Highlights

ANU-led study solves mystery of how first animals appeared on Earth

Research led by ANU has solved the mystery of how the first animals appeared on Earth, a pivotal moment for the planet without which humans...

News

04
Dec
2018
A new X-ray diffractometer ‘Empyrean S3’ arrived this week, replacing three older instruments and expanding the capabilities of our XRD lab. The instrument is the first of its...
22
Jun
2018
To understand when, how, and how quickly oxygen has become a component of our atmosphere between about 2.5 and 2.2 billion years ago, an international research team involving RSES...
20
Nov
2017
No human has been to the Moon since 1972 and only 12 people have ever done it – all of them American men.  But that list could soon be getting a lot longer. Why the Moon? Haven’t...
30
Sep
2017
On September 22, RSES students contributed to Australian effort to monitor a robotic spacecraft, OSIRIS-REx. The spacecraft swung towards Earth and was directly overhead near...
19
Sep
2017
Scientists at ANU have produced the best estimate of Earth's elemental composition which will help them understand how the Earth formed 4.6 billion years ago. The Solar System...
09
May
2017
Scientists from the Research School of Earth Sciences (RSES) say the early Earth was likely to be barren, mountainless and almost entirely under water with a few small islands,...
19
Sep
2016
RSES post-doctoral researcher Aditya Chopra recently undertook field-trips to the world heritage listed Shark Bay Nature Reserve and the Pilbara in Western Australia with...
01
Sep
2016
Australian researchers have found the world's oldest fossils, revealing that diverse life forms thrived on Earth 3.7 billion years ago. Co-lead investigator Associate Professor...
09
Jun
2016
By Aditya Chopra, Australian National University and Charley Lineweaver, Australian National University   Astronomers have found a plethora of planets around nearby stars. And it...
29
Jan
2016
The battered and scarred face of the Moon tells a story of the rough-and-tumble early days of our Solar System when planets were frequently blasted by mountain-size chunks of...

Events

14
Feb
2019
A fundamental question in earth and planetary systems is: how are chemical elements distributed from high temperature in the planet's interior to low temperatures at the surface,...

Updated:  17 December 2018/Responsible Officer:  RSES Webmaster/Page Contact:  RSES Webmaster