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.



Organic nano

Need to track organic nano particles across the Universe? NASA's got an app for you!

On Friday, February 21st, a significantly updated version of the NASA Ames PAH IR Spectroscopic database was made public at This is the largest collection of PAH spectra in the world and now contains 700 computational and 75 experimental spectra.

Teachers Picked For SOFIA Ambassadors Program

Teachers Picked For SOFIA Ambassadors Program. TheAlternativePress (1/24) reported on the selection of Chatham, New Jersey high school science teacher Margaret Holzer through a “rigorous peer-reviewed process” to participate in SOFIA’s Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program.

Borucki Honored By President Obama For Work On Kepler

Borucki Honored By President Obama For Work On Kepler. The Mountain View Voice (11/13, DeBolt, 52K) profiles Ames Research Center William Borucki, who was fundamental in getting the Kepler telescope developed. For his work, he was given the Samuel J. Heyman Service of America Medal by President Barack Obama last month. Borucki, according to the article, is “most proud” of his work with the telescope.

Borucki Said He Is “Satisfied” By Kepler

Borucki Said He Is “Satisfied” By Kepler. The Discover Magazine (11/11, Powell, 314K), in an article titled “Kepler Spacecraft’s Successors Are Lining Up to Find Another Earth” for its December 2013 issue, reported Kepler is not currently hunting planets, Bill Borucki of the Ames Research Center said he has “a feeling of satisfaction” about the mission, adding, “The worry before we launched was that there were very few planets. That’s not true.

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