Saturn's Majestic Rings Are the Topic of Free Lectures

Artist's concept of Cassini at Saturn Artist's concept of Cassini at Saturn.
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July 12, 2004

Two free public programs in Pasadena this week will present the dramatic story of Saturn, its majestic rings and dozens of moons.

On June 30, 2004, the Cassini spacecraft's nearly seven-year voyage to Saturn ended and a new chapter began when the spacecraft closed in on Saturn, slipped through a gap between its rings and sent back stunning pictures of the hundreds of bands that encircle the planet.

Dr. Linda Spilker, deputy project scientist for the Cassini-Huygens mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., will describe the adventure while sharing pictures and the latest science results on Thursday evening, July 15, at JPL, and on Friday evening, July 16, at Pasadena City College.

Saturn's rings comprise millions of icy particles ranging in size from dust to large boulders. The particles undergo an intricate dance as they orbit Saturn. The gravity of nearby moons causes the ring particles to bump into each other and create interesting patterns in the rings, such as waves and wakes. The Saturn ring system also includes ring gaps, narrow ringlets, spokes, diffuse rings, and sharp ring edges.

In addition to being deputy project scientist for Cassini, Spilker is a co-investigator on the Cassini composite infrared spectrometer team. She has worked on Cassini since 1988. Since joining JPL in 1977 she has also worked on the Voyager project and conducted independent research on the origin and evolution of planetary ring systems. Spilker received her PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles, in geophysics and space physics.

Both lectures will begin at 7 p.m. Seating is first-come, first-served. The Thursday lecture will be in JPL's von Karman Auditorium. JPL is at 4800 Oak Grove Dr., off the Oak Grove Drive exit of the 210 (Foothill) Freeway. The Friday lecture will be in Pasadena City College's Vosloh Forum, 1570 E. Colorado Blvd. For more information, call (818) 354-0112. Thursday's lecture will be webcast live and available afterwards at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/events/lectures/jul04.cfm.

For the latest images and more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission, visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and http://www.nasa.gov/cassini.

Carolina Martinez (818) 354-9382
JPL

2004-175



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