Astrochemistry Laboratory

Natasha M Johnson


Natasha M Johnson's Contact Card & Information.
Phone: 301.286.3919
Org Code: 691
Mail Code 691
Greenbelt, MD 20771

Brief Bio

Natasha Johnson is the Chief of the Astrochemistry Laboratory in the Solar System Exploration Division at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Her research interests include gas-grain reactions in the early solar nebula, atmospheric-surface reactions on Venus, and the formation of prebiotic organics in the early solar system. Her primary research activities have involved laboratory experiments to form organics through surface-mediated reactions, synthesizing analogs for early solar system materials, and running solid samples under Venus temperature/pressure conditions.

Dr. Johnson is currently serving as the Project Scientist for DAVINCI+, a 2019 Discovery Phase A Concept Study. She had also served as the Project Scientist for DAVINCI, a 2016 Discovery Phase A Concept Study (a Venus atmosphere descent probe). Dr. Johnson is the founder and director of vici (Venus In situ Chamber Investigations), which is a small Venus pressure chamber facility located at NASA Goddard.


Research Interests

Gas-Grain Reactions

Solar System: Astrochemistry

I am interested in gas-grain reactions that occur in different environments such as found during nebular materials interactions, planetary surfaces reacting with their respectives atmospheres (emphasis Venus), and changes in crustal mineralogy whether at depth or on the surface.

Venus Surface Mineralogy

Solar System: Venus

I am curious about the surface mineraolgy of Venus. We currently only have limited elemental knowledge of the surface and modeled mineralogical data. I perform high temperature/pressure experiments that mimic Venus atmospheric conditions at the surface (470C/96bar). In particular, I would like to continue to explore the rate of change in the Venus surface mineralogy over time at high temperatures.

Early Solar Nebula Materials

Solar System: Astrobiology

This encompases many areas but in particular, we explore the formation of complex hydrocarbons/organics through straightforward gas/surface mediated reactions. This process is expected to occur in the early solar nebula which also encompasses the formation of small particulates such as silicate dust/smoke.


Chief, Astrochemistry Laboratory

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center - Greenbelt, Maryland

October 2019 - Present

Associate Chief, Astrochemistry Laboratory

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center - Greenbelt, Maryland

June 2018 - October 2019

Research Scientist, Astrochemistry Laboratory

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center - Greenbelt, MD

2009 - 2018

NASA Postdoctoral Program Resident Management Associate

NASA Headquarters - Washington, DC

2007 - 2009

Planetary Science Division, Astrobiology, R&A Programmatic Support

Visiting Fellow, Astrochemistry Lab

USRA/CRESST - NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

2005 - 2007

National Research Council (NRC) Research Associate

NASA - Goddard Space Flight Center

2002 - 2005

Principal Solar Observer/Data Analyst, 60ft Solar Tower

USC - Mt. Wilson Observatory, California

1991 - 1996

Project: High Degree Helioseismology [Dr. Edward Rhodes]


2002 - Ph.D. (Earth & Planetary Sciences) Washington University in St. Louis

1998 - A.M. (Earth & Planetary Sciences) Washington University in St. Louis

1991 - B.A., cum laude (Math/Geology/Comp. Sci./Physics) University of Arizona, Tucson

Selected Publications


2021. "Amino acid abundances and compositions in iron and stony‐iron meteorites." Meteoritics & Planetary Science 56 (3): 586-600 [Full Text] [10.1111/maps.13638] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "The Formation of Carbonaceous Material in the Early Solar Nebula: The Role of Metal Dusting." The Astrophysical Journal 908 (1): 48 [10.3847/1538-4357/abcecc] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Did a Complex Carbon Cycle Operate in the Inner Solar System?." Life 10 (9): 206 [10.3390/life10090206] [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "Venus Atmospheric Composition In Situ Data: A Compilation." Earth and Space Science 6 (7): 1299-1318 [10.1029/2018ea000536] [Journal Article/Letter]

2017. "DAVINCI: Deep atmosphere venus investigation of noble gases, chemistry, and imaging." 2017 IEEE Aerospace Conference [10.1109/aero.2017.7943923] [Proceedings]

2016. "Gas/solid carbon branching ratios in surface-mediated reactions and the incorporation of carbonaceous material into planetesimals." Meteoritics & Planetary Science 51 (7): 1310-1322 [10.1111/maps.12666] [Journal Article/Letter]

2016. "Great new insights from failed experiments, unanticipated results and embracing controversial observations." Chemie der Erde - Geochemistry 76 (1): 1-12 [10.1016/j.chemer.2015.09.002] [Journal Article/Letter]

2015. "On the Use of Fourier Transform Infrared (FT-IR) Spectroscopy and Synthetic Calibration Spectra to Quantify Gas Concentrations in a Fischer-Tropsch Catalyst System." Applied Spectroscopy 69 (10): 1157-1169 [10.1366/15-07950] [Journal Article/Letter]

2014. "CO Self-Shielding as a Mechanism to Make 16O-Enriched Solids in the Solar Nebula." Challenges 5 (1): 152-158 [10.3390/challe5010152] [Journal Article/Letter]

2012. "Complex Protostellar Chemistry." Science 336 (6080): 424-425 [10.1126/science.1219709] [Journal Article/Letter]

2012. "A propensity for n-ω-amino acids in thermally altered Antarctic meteorites ." Meteoritics and Planetary Science 47 374-386 [10.1111/j.1945-5100.2012.01400.x] [Journal Article/Letter]

2012. "Carbon isotopic fractionation in Fischer-Tropsch-type reactions and relevance to meteorite organics." Meteoritics & Planetary Science 47 1029-1034. [Journal Article/Letter]

2010. "Synthesis of stacked-cup carbon nanotubes in a metal free low temperature system." Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Letters 3 4 - 10 [Journal Article/Letter]

2010. "The Formation of Graphite Whiskers in the Primitive Solar Nebula." The Astrophysical Journal Letters 710 L98 [Full Text] [10.1088/2041-8205/710/1/L98] [Journal Article/Letter]

2008. "A Self-Perpetuating Catalyst for the Production of Complex Organic Molecules in Protostellar Nebulae." The Astrophysical Journal 673 L225 [Full Text] [10.1086/528741] [Journal Article/Letter]

2006. "Crystalline silicates in comets: How did they form?." Icarus 180 243 [Full Text] [10.1016/j.icarus.2005.09.003] [Journal Article/Letter]

2006. "A Mechanism for the Equilibrium Growth of Mineral Crystals in AGB Stars and Red Giants on 105 yr Timescales." The Astrophysical Journal 644 1164 [Full Text] [10.1086/503700] [Journal Article/Letter]

2004. "Thermogravimetric Measurement of the Iron Vapor Pressure from 1575K to 1975K." J Chem Engin Data 49 497 - 501 [Journal Article/Letter]

2003. "Longevity of fluorine-bearing tremolite on Venus." Icarus 165 (2): 340-348 [10.1016/s0019-1035(03)00212-4] [Journal Article/Letter]

2003. "Tremolite decomposition on Venus II. Products, kinetics, and mechanism." Icarus 164 (2): 317-333 [10.1016/s0019-1035(03)00102-7] [Journal Article/Letter]

2000. "Water on Venus: New Insights from Tremolite Decomposition." Icarus 146 (1): 301-306 [10.1006/icar.2000.6392] [Journal Article/Letter]