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

UV Abiotic Production of the Molecule Uracil

A scientific paper has just appeared in the journal Astrobiology in which it is shown that UV irradiation of astrophysical ices containing pyrimidine can result in the abiotic production of the molecule uracil. Uracil is one of the nucleobases that are the building blocks of DNA and RNA. The work was done by Michel Nuevo, […]

Read More…

Tom Greene to serve on Astro2010 Space Program Prioritization Panel

Tom Greene was nominated to serve on the Electromagnetic Observations from Space Program Prioritization Panel of the Astro2010 decadal survey being conducted by the National Academy of Sciences. He has indicated his intent to serve on the panel, and his membership should be finalized within several weeks after a public comment period and a conflict […]

Read More…

So’ ba hane’ Story of the Stars Educator Workshop
Scott Sandford

On January 28-29, 2010, Dr. Scott Sandford of Code SSA served as a guest Speaker and resource person for the “So’ ba hane’ – Story of the Stars Educator Workshop” held in Window Rock, AZ. This workshop was the result of a collaborative effort supported by the NASA NAI and OSS programs and the Navajo […]

Read More…

EPO with Hartshorne High School and the Choctaw Nation Jones Academy

On January 21, 2010 the NASA Ames NAI (NASA Astrobiology Institute) team conducted an Education and Public Outreach event with the Hartshorne High School and the Choctaw Nation Jones Academy, Hartshorne, OK. Using NASA’s Digital Learning Network (DLN), Dr. Andrew Mattioda of the Ames NAI team conducted a seminar on Astrochemistry and Astrobiology with the […]

Read More…