Spring 2010:

Feb. 12, '10 "Running Rings Around Saturn: The Cassini Mission", Dr. Josh Colwell, Assistant Professor, Physics Department, University of Central Florida, FL


The Cassini spacecraft, carrying the ESA-built Huygens probe, entered Saturn's orbit on June 30, 2004, and the Huygens probe successfully landed on the surface of Saturn's large moon Titan on January 14, 2005. Now in its fifth year orbiting Saturn, Cassini has completed more than 100 orbits of the ringed planet and more than 50 encounters with Titan. Cassini has also explored many of Saturn's dozens of icy moons. Geysers have been discovered erupting from the south pole of the moon Enceladus, making it only the third known currently geologically active object in the solar system. Moonlets have been discovered orbiting inside Saturn's rings that are providing clues to the still mysterious origin of the rings. A giant hurricane-like vortex swirls around Saturn's south pole. Great fields of sand dunes and lakes of liquid methane have been discovered on Titan. This talk will give a whirlwind overview of the exciting discoveries being made at the ringed planet and look ahead to the plans to continue exploring the Saturn system well into the next decade.

Josh Colwell
Assistant Professor of Physics
University of Central Florida

Josh Colwell is an Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Central Florida. He has a Ph.D. in Planetary Sciences from the University of Colorado and worked on the Voyager project as a graduate student. His research focuses on the origin and evolution of the planets, and in particular on the small denizens of the solar system: asteroids, moons, comets, planetary rings, and dust. He has flown experiments on the space shuttle to understand collisions in the solar system and has flown more than 280 zero-gravity parabolas to perform experiments on planet formation. His study of collisions in the solar system led him to a position as science advisor on the film "Deep Impact" in which he has a (very) small part. He has been working on the Cassini-Huygens mission since 1991 and is a Co-Investigator on the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph on Cassini with a responsibility for observations of Saturn's rings with that instrument.