Planetary Systems Branch (Code SST)

Solar nebula models have revolutionized conceptions of solar system formation
Solar nebula models have revolutionized conceptions of solar system formation

The Planetary Systems Branch is primarily in N245, with some laboratory facilities in N239.

Chief: Dr. Jeff Hollingsworth

Assistant Chief: Sandra Owen

Front Office: 650-604-5524

Observational, theoretical, and experimental research on the origin and evolution of planetary systems

Hubble observations that discovered rings of Uranus

How common are planetary systems around nearby stars? Which conditions are necessary for planet formation? Are there other Earth-like planets capable of harboring life? What forms of life can be sustained in different physical and chemical environments?

We have world-class expertise in planetary geology and geophysics, planetary atmospheres and climate, and planetary disks and rings.

Solar nebula models have revolutionized conceptions of solar system formation.

Our scientists are at the very forefront of many observational and theoretical studies.

Extensive Mars research efforts include global circulation modeling of the atmosphere, and detailed studies of the geology, chemistry and mineralogy of surface materials.

Ames scientists also provide science and engineering leadership in sub-surface exploration, with a demonstrated capability in developing and testing drills.

Branch scientists conduct a large array of Mars analog field campaigns in arid sites such as Antarctica, the Atacama desert in Chile, California’s Mojave desert, and the Rio Tinto region of Spain, making critical tests of technologies and practices that will be integrated into future missions.

Branch scientists are conducting science and engineering concept studies for future missions including Mars Scout concepts like the Mars Polar Drill and Mars Meteorology Orbiter.

Code SST Highlights

Amateur Observers Readying To Watch LCROSS Impact

Amateur Observers Readying To Watch LCROSS Impact. Florida (10/4, Dean, 73K) reported on the upcoming LCROSS impact of the moon Friday morning around 7:30 a.m. EDT. “Across darker regions of the country, telescopes from 10 inches in diameter to giant observatories will be trained on the moon’s south pole. And the satellite will stream live […]

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Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Steps Aside for Endeavour Launch

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Steps Aside For Endeavour Launch. NASA will try again to launch the space shuttle Endeavour on June 17, and still push to get the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) under way this week as well. Both spacecraft were scheduled to launch from Florida that day, after a gaseous hydrogen leak forced the shuttle […]

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Farid Salama Organized “Bridging Laboratory and Astrophysics” Meeting

Farid Salama (SSA), chair of the AAS Working Group on Laboratory Astrophysics, was the lead organizer of the “Bridging Laboratory and Astrophysics” Meeting that was held at the AAS Conference last week in Pasadena, CA. The three day meeting, devoted to the interplay between laboratory astrophysics and IR, FIR and submm astronomy, was a success […]

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Education Supplement for “Spaceward Bound Mojave 2010 and 2011”

Chris McKay, Liza Coe and Henry Sun (DRI) were selected for award of an education supplement for “Spaceward Bound Mojave 2010 and 2011.” The ROSES parents proposals are “Biological accumulation of D-amino acids in endolithic microbial communities” (PI: Henry Sun, DRI) and “Raman UV/Fluorescence for Planetary Protection Bioburden Monitoring” (PI: Chris McKay). For each year […]

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Annual “NASA Night” Talk on Astrobiology

Presented at Ohlone College’s annual ‘NASA Night’ talk on Astrobiology Tuesday last week. There was a full 400-seat auditorium with people standing watching on a TV screen outside. I think the talk was well received (see below), both with the audience and with the organizers. Info on the event: […]

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Kepler Project Submits Several Articles

The Kepler project submitted over two dozen articles describing various aspects of the mission and early science results to The Astrophysical Journal Letters and Science Magazine on November 15. Publication of these articles is expected early in 2010. […]

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Slurries Of Mud May Have Flowed In Martian Gullies

Slurries Of Mud May Have Flowed In Martian Gullies. The Australia Broadcasting Corporation (11/2, Catchpole) reports, “Martian water most likely flowed as slurries of mud rather than trickling streams, according to a recent NASA report.” Jennifer Heldmann of the Ames Research Center analyzed pictures of the Terra Sirenum and the Centauri Montes regions of Mars, […]

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Salts’ effects on Rock Fracturing on Mars

Mera Horne is currently working with me on the effect of salts, especially perchlorate, on rock fracturing on Mars. She is working at Ames and UC Berkeley funded through the EA program. Next year she plans to become a full time graduate student at UCB working with Professor Hari Dharan of the Mechanical Engineering Department. […]

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