Saturn and its Rings: Results from Cassini
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has been touring the Saturn system since 2004, sending back a continuing stream of images and other scientific measurements of the planet Saturn and its rings and moons. The data reveal such exotic features as lakes of liquid methane on the moon Titan and plumes of ice crystals emerging from cracks in the surface of Enceladus. The ring system reveals features that seem to defy our most basic understanding about the laws of Keplerian dynamics.
Mark Showalter, a Principal Investigator at the SETI Institute and co-I on the Cassini Project, will present an overview of the latest results from the mission. He will give particular emphasis on some of his favorite puzzles posed by Saturn's intricate ring system, and what they might mean for broader questions about the formation and evolution of planetary systems.
Mark Showalter is a planetary astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, specializing in planetary ring-moon systems and orbital dynamics. He is a co-investigator for the thermal infrared instrument on the Cassini Mission to Saturn, and served on the New Horizons team for its 2007 flyby of Jupiter. He has also been the principal investigator on numerous observing programs with the Hubble Space Telescope, encompassing all four giant planets. Earlier in his career, he worked extensively with Voyager data and is credited with the discoveries of Saturn's innermost moon, Pan, and a faint outer ring of Jupiter. More recently, he discovered two small moons and two faint rings of Uranus in Hubble images.