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Laboratory Astrophysics

Astrophysical phenomena occur in environments of the cosmos radically different from those on Earth. However, laboratory work can provide important data on the behavior of matter under the temperatures, densities, radiation intensities, and other properties occurring elsewhere in the cosmos. Astrophysicists, astrochemists, and engineers at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian research how atoms, molecules, and other materials behave under exotic conditions, enabling observational astronomers to understand the properties of astronomical systems. At the same time, telescope data provide crucial information that can be applied in the lab. The resulting interactions have led to deep insights into the behavior of interstellar clouds, the atmospheres of stars and planets, and many other systems. This work has also assisted with the development of databases of atomic and molecular spectra.