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

LADEE Solves Decades-Old Question About Moon’s Neon

The Christian Science Monitor (8/18, Warner, 455K) continues coverage of how the LADEE spacecraft confirmed that the moon’s atmosphere, also known as an exosphere contains neon. Mehdi Benna of the Goddard Space Flight Center, the lead author of the study, said, “The presence of neon in the exosphere of the moon has been a subject […]

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Elisa Quintana named Scientist of the Year by the organization “Great Minds in STEM”.
Elisa Quintana - Great Minds in STEM Great Minds in STEM: Vision Be a national leader in keeping America technologically strong by promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Math careers especially in underserved communities. Mission To inspire and motivate underserved students to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) To enlighten and engage families, educators, communities and employers to assist […]

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Resource Prospector NIRVSS/Drill testing in GRC vacuum chamber

The Resource Prospector (RP) team successfully completed testing of the Near InfraRed Volatiles Spectrometer System (NIRVSS) and Drill system in lunar-like conditions.  The test was conducted in the GRC VF-13 vacuum chamber to evaluate/test/assess RP’s method for regolith sample acquisition and sub-surface volatiles quantification. The VF-13 chamber uses a drill tube of cryogenically-frozen lunar simulant […]

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Ames-led FINESSE fieldwork featured on The Science Channel

Each year, the Ames-led FINESSE (Field Investigations to Enable Solar System Science & Exploration) team conducts planetary analog fieldwork in the volcanic landscape in and around Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, Idaho. Fieldwork focuses on understand the processes, geomorphic features and rock types related to fissure eruptions, volcanic constructs, lava tubes, flows […]

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Rover Searches California Desert for Water to Simulate Future Lunar Missions
KREX Rover

Ames is currently conducting the “Mojave Volatiles Prospector” (MVP) robotic field test to study the use of in-situ prospecting instruments in a real-time robotic surface mission.The field test is designed as a high-fidelity lunar analog mission, with emphasis on field science and “high-tempo” science operations. The experience, lessons learned, and results from MVP will inform […]

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Sampling for Biomarkers in the Atacama Desert
MB Atacama 1

NASA Ames Pathway PhD Candidate, Mary Beth Wilhelm, conducted Mars analog field work in the Atacama Desert in Chile with Senior Research Scientist Dr. Alfonso Davila of the SETI Institute and Civil Servant Dr. Jennifer Eigenbrode of NASA Goddard. The team collected samples from the extreme hyper-arid core of the Atacama, which receives less than […]

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