Planetary Systems Branch
(Astrobiology Group of The Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand)
How common are planetary systems around nearby stars? Which conditions are necessary for planet formation? Are there other Earth-like planets capable of harboring life? What forms of life can be sustained in different physical and chemical environments?
We have world-class expertise in planetary geology and geophysics, planetary atmospheres and climate, and planetary disks and rings.
Solar nebula models have revolutionized conceptions of solar system formation.
Our scientists are at the very forefront of many observational and theoretical studies.
Extensive Mars research efforts include global circulation modeling of the atmosphere, and detailed studies of the geology, chemistry and mineralogy of surface materials.
Ames scientists also provide science and engineering leadership in sub-surface exploration, with a demonstrated capability in developing and testing drills.
Branch scientists conduct a large array of Mars analog field campaigns in arid sites such as Antarctica, the Atacama desert in Chile, California’s Mojave desert, and the Rio Tinto region of Spain, making critical tests of technologies and practices that will be integrated into future missions.
Branch scientists are conducting science and engineering concept studies for future missions including Mars Scout concepts like the Mars Polar Drill and Mars Meteorology Orbiter.
The Planetary Systems Branch is primarily in N245, with some laboratory facilities in N239.
Chief: Dr. Jeff Hollingsworth