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…
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.
Code SSA Highlights
Engineers Outline K2 Plan To Restart Kepler Telescope Observations. New Scientist (11/8, Becker, 18K) reports engineers at the Kepler Science Conference II outlined the “K2” plan, which would use a “helpful push from the sun” to allow the Kepler telescope to once again search for more exoplanets. Charlie Sobeck, Kepler deputy project manager, said, “If […]
NBC Nightly News (11/5, story 9, 0:25, Williams, 7.86M) reported, “Well, good news for travelers, when we have all decided we have once and for all trashed planet Earth, a new analysis from NASA says there could be as many as 40 billion habitable earth size planets out there in the galaxy, the nearest place […]
Dr. Sandford was a Co-investigator on the Japanese Hayabusa asteroid sample return mission and was one of the two US Sample Scientists on the mission. As part of the joint mission agreement with JAXA, NASA will ultimately receive 10% of the samples returned from asteroid Itokawa. Dr. Sandford assisted Dr. Michael Zolensky, the NASA Hayabusa […]
Dr. Sandford was part of an international team of scientists that has been working for several years to find interstellar dust candidates in the Stardust interstellar aerogel collectors. This team has now discovered a handful of interstellar dust particle candidate and completed a large number of different types of laboratory analysis to demonstrate that several […]
The mid-infrared camera (FORCAST) for the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has been undergoing line operations and commissioning flights in preparation to support Cycle 1 science which begins later this month. NASA Ames Research Center researcher Kimberly Ennico has been supporting the grism (or spectroscopic) mode during the line operations and commissioning flights. Luke […]
Collaborating with a group of Spanish Astronomers, members of the Astrophysics and Astrochemistry Laboratory group found strong evidence for the presence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) molecules in the atmosphere of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. Utilizing the wealth of PAH spectra available in the NASA Ames PAH IR Spectroscopic Database, they analyzed data obtained by […]
Alan Boyle at the NBC News (6/6) “Cosmic Log” blog interviews SETI Institute senior astronomer Seth Shostak about the possibility of intelligent aliens invading Earth like in sci-fi movies since results from the Kepler telescope indicate “that there could be billions upon billions of alien Earths and super-Earths out there.” Shostak thinks typical rationales used […]
Combining for the first time a blind, algorithm driven analytic approach with authentic PAH spectra, members of the Astrophysics & Astrochemistry Laboratory are now able to systematically track parts of carbon’s molecular evolution across the Universe. On Tuesday, May 24th, 2013, simultaneous with the appearance of a paper in The Astrophysical Journal describing their work, […]
Every year, Leiden Observatory selects a distinguished astronomer to be the Oort Professor in memory of Professor Jan Oort, the distinguished Professor of Astronomy at Leiden University who played a pioneering role in many aspects of modern astronomy. Lou has received this award for his, “leading role in developing infrared spectroscopy as a tool for […]
Kepler Reaction Wheel Still has Elevated Levels Of Friction. Space News (4/5, Foust, Subscription Publication) reports, “A reaction wheel on NASA’s Kepler spacecraft continues to experience elevated levels of friction after a brief rest period, but project officials say that does not necessarily imply an imminent failure that could jeopardize the spacecraft’s planet-hunting mission.” Kepler […]