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

Inaugural Laboratory Astrophysics Prize Goes to Louis Allamandola
Lou Allamandola

Adapted from a press release from the AAS Laboratory Astrophysics Division: The AAS Laboratory Astrophysics Division (LAD) is pleased to announce the awarding of its inaugural Laboratory Astrophysics Prize to Dr. Louis Allamandola of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. Dr. Allamandola is cited “for his numerous contributions to the study of ices […]

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Dr. Elisa Quintana receives the Lupe Ontiveros Dream Award
Dr. Elisa Quintana

Dr. Elisa Quintana, a senior fellow in the NASA Postdoctoral Program at NASA Ames Research Center received the Lupe Ontiveros Dream Award. Dr. Quintana works with Kepler data to search for and characterize extrasolar planets. The award was presented to Dr. Quintana at a ceremony at the Los Angeles Theatre Center on October 4, 2014. […]

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SOFIA Gaining New Instrument

Britt Rawcliffe at Spaceflight Insider (6/5) wrote that the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is getting a new instrument called the Echelon-Cross-Echelle Spectrograph (EXES), which stated testing back in April. SOFIA program scientist Pamela Marcum said that the addition of the instrument will give SOFIA an “unprecedented ability to study celestial objects at wavelengths […]

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Kepler Telescope Has Already Found Candidate Planets Under K2 Campaign

Discovery News (6/5, Klotz, 252K) reports that Thomas Barclay of the Ames Research Center said that in just the first nine days of the Kepler telescopes new observational campaign, K2, which has restored the telescope’s observational capabilities after losing two reaction wheels, “three more candidate planets, all around the size of Jupiter, circling relatively bright […]

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SOFIA Declared Operational

Flight Global (6/3, 2K) reports that NASA declared that the Stratospheric Observatory of Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) telescope is now operational, a milestone which comes several months after Obama Administration released its 2015 budget that “effectively” grounds the program. With the House have passed a bill that has “partial funding” for the project, its status is […]

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Kepler Telescope Resumes Scientific Observations

Spaceflight Now (6/3, Clark, 3K) reports that starting May 30, the Kepler telescope has been taking new scientific observations under the “K2” extension plan, which is allowing the telescope to operate on only two out of four functioning reaction wheels. under this “new lease on life,” the telescope will undertake nine observational campaigns over the […]

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NASA Simulator Successfully Recreates Space Dust
Image of Star - Farid Salama

A team of scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., has successfully reproduced, right here on Earth, the processes that occur in the atmosphere of a red giant star and lead to the formation of planet-forming interstellar dust. Using a specialized facility, called the Cosmic Simulation Chamber (COSmIC) designed and built at […]

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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. The article noted that after the two-person educator teams learn to utilize the 100-inch effective diameter telescope on board SOFIA’s […]

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