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(Exo)Planetary Laboratory Studies with the NASA Ames COSmIC and OCF Facilities

Presentation #220.02 in the session Laboratory Investigations (Poster + Lightning Talk)

Published onOct 23, 2023
(Exo)Planetary Laboratory Studies with the NASA Ames COSmIC and OCF Facilities

The NASA Ames’ Cosmic Simulation Chamber (COSmIC) facility [1] is used to study neutral and ionized molecules, nanoparticles, and grains under temperature and high vacuum conditions representative of (exo)planetary environments. In COSmIC a Pulsed Discharge Nozzle generates a plasma in a supersonic jet expansion and is coupled to high sensitivity in situ diagnostic tools. Cavity ring down and laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopy systems are used for the characterization in the UV-Vis-NIR-MIR of the species present in the expansion. A Time-of-flight mass spectrometer is used for the monitoring of the plasma-generated gas-phase molecular products leading to the formation of planetary dust and aerosol analogs. These in situ measurements are essential for the interpretation of data returned by space missions (HST, JWST, SOFIA, Cassini...).

The Optical Constants Facility (OCF) [2] consists of a FTIR spectrometer that allows spectral characterization from 0.6 to 200 µm and the determination of the optical constants of solid materials produced in COSmIC and other laboratories. The optical constants of analogs of organic refractory materials formed in (exo)planetary, cometary, and astrophysical environments are critical input parameters in models used to interpret observational data (e.g., Cassini, New Horizons, JWST, ground based telescopes) .

We will present recent advances that were achieved in the formation of laboratory analogs of (exo)planetary dust grains and aerosols from gas-phase precursors; as well as the determination of the optical constants of Titan and Pluto aerosol analogs and analogs of hazes and cloud particles in (exo)planet atmospheres derived from the laboratory experiments.

References: [1] Salama et al., Proc. IAU S332, 2018; [2] Sciamma-O’Brien et al. PSJ 2023. Weblink: COSmIC Laboratory:

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

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