The goal of the project is to measure the electronic spectra of chemically and astrophysically interesting radicals and ions. This provides both the fingerprint to identify the species in various environments by spectroscopy, e.g. laser based techniques on earth in flames, plasmas, or via star-light absorption in interstellar space, or planetary atmospheres. Methods used in the laboratory to obtain the spectra, range from direct absorption measurements on mass-selected species in neon matrices, to detection of fluorescence, to monitoring the absorption via cavity ring-down with lasers, to indirect means of following the transitions by multiphoton processes, and the use of ion-traps. The species are produced using laser vaporization and discharges within supersonic expansions and the sensitive laser techniques allow the small concentrations of the transients to be detected. The molecules studied are selected on the basis of their relevance in a particular environment: carbon chains, rings and fullerenes for astrophysical comparison; carbon and nitrogen containing radicals for planetary science, such as Titan, or in chemical reactions. The research involves in part the development and adaptation of laser methods for such spectroscopic characterizations.