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

Borucki Honored By President Obama For Work On Kepler

Borucki Honored By President Obama For Work On Kepler. The Mountain View Voice (11/13, DeBolt, 52K) profiles Ames Research Center William Borucki, who was fundamental in getting the Kepler telescope developed. For his work, he was given the Samuel J. Heyman Service of America Medal by President Barack Obama last month. Borucki, according to the […]

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Borucki Said He Is “Satisfied” By Kepler

Borucki Said He Is “Satisfied” By Kepler. The Discover Magazine (11/11, Powell, 314K), in an article titled “Kepler Spacecraft’s Successors Are Lining Up to Find Another Earth” for its December 2013 issue, reported Kepler is not currently hunting planets, Bill Borucki of the Ames Research Center said he has “a feeling of satisfaction” about the […]

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Engineers Outline K2 Plan To Restart Kepler Telescope Observations

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 […]

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Grism and Imaging Modes of the Mid-IR Instrument FORCAST are commissioned on the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA)

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 […]

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Cassini Sees Precursors to Aerosol Haze on Titan
Cassini Sees Precursors to Aerosol Haze on Titan

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 […]

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Kepler Results Make Some Sci-Fi Concepts “Outdated.”

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 […]

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NASA Develops Key to Cosmic Carbon’s Molecular Evolution
Cosmic Carbon's Molecular Evolution

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, […]

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