Researchers in the Astrophysics Branch study the physical and chemical properties of astronomical objects and phenomena by observing their radiation at optical, infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths.
Below are the main fields of study:
SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is designed to observe the infrared universe. It is a Boeing 747SP aircraft modified to carry a 2.7-meter reflecting telescope. Flying into the stratosphere at 38,000-45,000 feet puts SOFIA above 99 percent of Earth’s infrared-blocking atmosphere, allowing astronomers to study the solar system and beyond in ways that are not possible with ground-based telescopes.
Laboratory Astrophysics plays a key role in the optimization of NASA missions, both at the science and instrument conception level and at the science return level. The multidisciplinarity of the workforce at NASA (astrophysicists, astrochemists, chemists, physicists, planetary scientists, theoreticians, astronomers) makes it a unique environment for doing Laboratory Astrophysics research.
There are now over 4000 confirmed planets listed in the NASA Exoplanet Archive, and most of these were discovered via the Ames-conceived Kepler/K2 missions. Ames scientists are leading important efforts to facilitate the characterization of the exoplanet discoveries and helping to enable NASA’s search for life in the universe.