Astrophysics Branch (Code SSA)


Chief: Jessie Dotson

Assistant Chief: Christine Martinez

Branch Office: 650.604.5528



Observations, Instrument Development, and Experiments

We perform observations from ground-based and space-born telescopes to better understand the origin of stars and planetary systems and support space missions. We had more successful Spitzer space telescope proposals than any other organization, we have performed observations from the Hubble space telescope and space mission spectrometers such as Cassini VIMS, and our scientists are so well respected that they chair and sit on observatory time allocation committees.


The SOFIA water vapor monitor

We develop instruments and detectors to improve the capabilities of ground based and airborn telescopes. This is possible thanks to our scientists expertise in IR observations and our highly specialized instrument development shop tailored to producing scientific equipment and rapid prototyping which has produced flight hardware for airborne and space use. The team of technicians has extensive expertise with high vacuum systems, cryogenics, and optics. But that's not all…

Lab Facilities

Ice Spectroscopy and photo-chemistry:

Facilities include High-vacuum cryogenic equipment to simulate space ices, from interstellar grains at 10 K to icy surfaces of planets, comets, and satellites in the outer Solar System.

Alexandrite, Nd/YAG, and dye lasers and associated optical instrumentation for the vaporization, and photo-luminescence, and spectroscopic analysis of materials.

Chromatography for the analysis of organic molecules from meteorites and simulation experiments.


Instrumentation for transmission and reflection spectroscopy from the Vacuum UV through the Far IR.


Gas-phase spectroscopy: A Pulsed slit discharge nozzle that produces ultracold, very low density gas and plasmas combined with a high sensitivity cavity ringdown spectrometer.



NAI Astrochemistry Team Dark Sky

Ames NAI Astrochemistry Team Supports Astrobiology at Lassen Volcanic Dark Sky Festival

Drs. Scott Sandford and Andrew Mattioda supported NASA’s Astrobiology Institute’s public outreach efforts during the Lassen Volcanic Dark Sky Festival, August 7-9, 2015, Lassen Volcanic Park.
Chickasaw - Mattioda

Dr. Andrew Mattioda featured in a Chickasaw Times article

Dr. Andrew Mattioda was featured in a Chickasaw Times newspaper article, the official newspaper of the Chickasaw Nation.  The article covers Dr. Mattioda's rural Oklahoma background and his commitment to inspire children from rural areas, specifically Native Americans, to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers.  Dr.

Close up - Andrew Mattioda

The NASA Ames NAI team participates in the Chickasaw Nation Aeronautics and Space Academy (CNASA)

On June 9th and 10th, Dr. Andrew Mattioda, of the NASA Ames NAI (NASA Astrobiology Institute) CAN 7 team, participated in the Chickasaw Nation Aeronautics and Space Academy (CNASA), held in Ada, OK.  The Chickasaw Nation conducts the week-long camp to encourage their Native American youth to consider careers in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. 

New Horizons NASA Social  Web Chat Featuring NASA Ames Scientist

New Horizons NASA Social Web Chat Featuring NASA Ames Scientist

On June 6, 2015 NASA and the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory hosted a NASA social on NASA’s New Horizons mission. New Horizons will fly by Pluto & its moons on July 14, 2015 after a 9.5 year trek across the Solar System.

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