Astrophysics Branch (Code SSA)


Acting Branch Chief: Mark Fonda

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

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

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.

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.











Code SSA Highlights

Space Science & Astrobiology Division Update

Presented by: Mark Fonda Time: 11:00 AM– 12:00 PM When: June 21, 2021 MS Teams MEETING OR Conference phone number: +1 256-715-9946 Audio Conf. : 630 810 518# ======================================================== Link to Dan Sirbu’s Slides Link to Tom Bristow’s Slides […]

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SS Weekly Highlights

Title: Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in the Interstellar Medium: Observational, Experimental and Computational Tools — Dr. Christiaan Boersma (SSA) will lecture at the weeklong Summer school titled “Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in the Interstellar Medium: Observational, Experimental and Computational Tools” (, which starts April 1st in Les Houches, a commune in the French Alps famously known for […]

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SS Weekly Highlight

Title: New Publication – Shaken Snow Globes: Kinematic Tracers of the Multiphase Condensation Cascade in Massive Galaxies — Pasquale Temi (Code SSA) With this work we propose a novel method to constrain turbulence and bulk motions in massive galaxies, groups and clusters, exploring both simulations and observations. As emerged in the recent picture of the top-down multiphase […]

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SS Weekly Highlight

Ella Sciamma-O’Brien (SSA/BAERI) participated in the 49th Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in Provo, UT, from October 15 to 20. […]

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Commissioning of the new NN- EXPLORE Speckle Interferomentry Instrument (NESSI
SS weekly highlight

Commissioning of the NN-EXPLORE Program Speckle Interferometry Instrument NESSI (NN-EXPLORE Exoplanet Speckle and Stellar Imager) took place on October 13-15, 2016 at the 3.5-m WIYN telescope facility located at the Kitt Peak National Laboratory of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory. The instrument was built at Ames Research Center by Nic Scott, Emmett Quigley and Steve […]

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Dr. Andrew Mattioda featured in a Chickasaw Times article
Chickasaw - Mattioda

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. Mattioda led the Ames Astrochemistry NAI (NASA […]

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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. Speakers include Dr. Jim Green (NASA HQ), Dr. Alan Stern, New […]

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NASA’s Kepler Telescope Discovers Ancient Planets

NASA’s Kepler Telescope Discovers Ancient Planets. New Scientist (1/27, Grossman, 297K) reports on a discovery of five ancient planets around an 11.2 billion-year old star. The discovery by NASA’s Kepler space telescope of “planets around an orange dwarf star called Kepler 444, which is 117 light years away and about 25 per cent smaller than […]

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