CASPER Technical Seminar - Saturn's Restless Rings: Latest Results from the Cassini Mission
Mark Showalter, SETI

DateFebruary 1, 2013Time10:30 - 11:30 pm
LocationBSB - E.234
DescriptionNASA's Cassini spacecraft has been orbiting the planet Saturn since mid-2004. As it tours the system, Cassini's cameras and other instruments continue to send back to Earth a treasure of new information about the planet, its rings, and its large family of moons. Dr. Mark Showalter will present an update on some of the scientific highlights from the mission so far, with a particular emphasis on the system's most distinctive component, its rings. Whereas we once believed Saturn's rings to be stable for millions of years, we are now learning that some of the rings can change in appearance over time scales as brief as decades, or sometimes even days. The rings have revealed a variety of surprising phenomena going by names such as "jets", "propellers", "wisps", "spokes", and "braids". Despite their exotic names and appearances, we now recognize that many of these phenomena emerge out of surprisingly basic physics. Understanding planetary rings is important because they serve as dynamical laboratories in which we can observe some of the same processes that long ago formed our Solar System out of a cloud of dust and debris.
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