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

Kepler Database Now Open To The Public

SPACE (1/22, Kramer) reports, “Scientists with NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft have revamped the mission’s online archive of alien worlds, opening up the database for the entire world to see.” With the “NASA Exoplanet Archive” now available to the public, “scientists have started shoveling out all the data Kepler collects into a comprehensive list” instead […]

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Kepler Telescope Placed Into Safe Mode

SPACE (1/22, Wall) reports, “NASA’s prolific planet-hunting Kepler space telescope has been placed in a precautionary ‘safe mode’ after engineers noticed a problem with the instrument’s orientation mechanism.” Kepler officials, in discussing the decision to place the spacecraft into safe mode on January 17, said, “Resting the [reaction] wheels provides an opportunity to redistribute […]

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NASA Cassini mission news Titan Gets a Dune “Makeover”

Titan’s siblings must be jealous. While most of Saturn’s moons display their ancient faces pockmarked by thousands of craters, Titan Saturn’s largest moon, may look much younger than it really is because its craters are getting erased. Dunes of exotic, hydrocarbon sand are slowly but steadily filling in its craters, according to new research using […]

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Ames Kepler mission news Kepler Mission Manager Update

It has been more than three-and-a-half-years since the Kepler mission launched in March 2009. The spacecraft has continued in its heliocentric, drift-away orbit and is now more than 45 million miles away from Earth. The Kepler project team has completed two science data downloads since the last update. The most recent data download on Jan. […]

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SOFIA Provides “Unprecedented View” Of Part Of Milky Way

SOFIA Provides “Unprecedented View” Of Part Of Milky Way.?The Aerospace Daily & Defense Report (1/10, Mecham) reported, “About 4-6 million years ago, ‘something big’ happened at the center of the Milky Way and NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (Sofia) has brought back the latest pictures.” The images showed the “bursts of energy that […]

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Kepler Telescope May Have Found Most Earth-Like Planet Yet

SPACE (1/10, Moskowitz) reports, “A possible alien planet discovered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope is the most Earth-like world yet detected beyond our solar system, scientists say.” If confirmed, the new planet would be 1.5 times the size of the Earth and would be located in its star’s habitable zone. Furthermore, Natalie Batalha, a […]

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Paper on the Sutter’s Mill Meteorite Appears in “Science”
NASA Researchers Strike Scientific Gold With Meteorite

The Sutter’s Mill meteorite fell to ground on 22 April 2012 and shortly thereafter searches were instigated for samples by NASA-ARC and SETI personnel in cooperation with multiple volunteers from the public. These efforts resulted in the finding of a number of metoeritic stones that were subsequently analyzed using a variety of analytical techniques by […]

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SOFIA Upgrades: Integrating Telescope Onboard Command and Control Systems

NASA mission news – SOFIA Upgrades: Integrating Telescope Onboard Command and Control Systems. NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) aircraft has recently received major upgrades to its observatory and avionics systems that will significantly improve the systems’ efficiency and operability. […]

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AAS Leadership & Executive Committee Meeting

Dr. Farid Salama was invited to attend the AAS Fall Leadership Meeting and Executive Committee Meeting and to prepare and present a 2-page report providing the basic information about the Laboratory Astrophysics Division for distribution to other Division leaders as a snapshot of the purpose and activities as well as recent accomplishments and future plans […]

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Interview for Nature Magazine

Dr. Farid Salama was interviewed by a Nature Magazine’s reporter on the growth of laboratory astrophysics, the formation of the laboratory astrophysics division at the AAS and the current situation in the field. […]

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