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Addressing the Experimental Needs for the James Webb Space Telescope with the NASA Ames’ COSmIC and OCF Facility

Presentation #340.04 in the session Laboratory Astrophysics (LAD) Division Meeting: A Universe of Carbon II.

Published onJun 29, 2022
Addressing the Experimental Needs for the James Webb Space Telescope with the NASA Ames’ COSmIC and OCF Facility

The NASA Ames COsmic SImulation Chamber (COSmIC) is a unique facility that is used to study, in the laboratory, neutral and ionized molecules, nanoparticles and grains under the low temperature and high vacuum conditions representative of interstellar, circumstellar, and planetary environments. COSmIC is composed of a Pulsed Discharge Nozzle expansion that generates a plasma in a supersonic jet coupled to in situ diagnostic tools for the detection and characterization of the species present in the expansion: a Cavity Ring Down Spectroscopy system operating in the UV-Visible-NIR-MIR range, and a Reflectron Time-Of-Flight Mass Spectrometer. Recent effort has been carried out to extend the CRD spectrometer to the NIR and MIR to provide high resolution spectra of gas-phase molecules relevant for NIRSpec and MIRI JWST observations.

COSmIC is uniquely positioned to support the analysis of data from JWST, which will measure, for the first time, the IR Universe across the entire MIR range with unprecedentedly high sensitivity, and spatial and spectral resolution. JWST is a unique tool for studying the circumstellar matter (CS), dust, the interstellar medium (ISM), diffuse and dense molecular clouds and HII regions as well as exoplanet atmospheres and haze/aerosol formation and optical properties. Complex carbon molecules and ions (hydrocarbons, PAHs, fullerenes) are ubiquitous in space and form the building blocks of the carbonaceous component of cosmic dust grains ultimately contributing to the formation of planets. JWST spectra of CS and IS environments in local and extra galactic regions will contain the spectral signatures of all these elements.

The Ames Optical Constants Facility (OCF) has been developed to allow the determination of optical constants covering a broad wavelength range from the visible to the FIR with high spectral resolution for solid materials, analogs of organic refractory materials formed in planetary and astrophysical environments. The core of the OCF is a FTIR spectrometer that allows the continuous characterization of solid samples in the visible to FIR range. Modeling of the laboratory measurements conducted with the OCF allows the determination of accurate optical constants, n and k, over the full spectral range.

We will discuss the recent advances that have been achieved with COSmIC and OCF to illustrate the support that the Ames’ facilities can provide to the analysis of return data from JWST.

The authors acknowledge the support of NASA SMD APD and PSD and the technical support of E. Quigley.


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