Outer Planets

A Post-Equinox View of Saturn's Rings

Saturn’s Equinox 2009: Oblique lighting exposed vertical structure and embedded objects. The rings were the coldest ever. Dr. Esposito will show how images inspired new occultation and spectral analysis that show abundant structure in the perturbed regions. The rings are more variable and complex than we had expected prior to this seasonal viewing geometry.

A Guide to Lakefront Vacationing on Titan: Hydrocarbon Lakes and their Role in the Methane Cycle.

Observations of Titan’s polar regions reveal hydrocarbon lakes with morphologies and scales similar to terrestrial counterparts. The global distribution, topography, and seasonal variability of these lacustrine features are used to study volatile transport in Titan’s hydrologic cycle. This seminar will review recent observations made by the Cassini RADAR and discuss the constraints they place on the nature of the lakes, their role in Titan's methane cycle, and their evolution over both seasonal and orbital timescales.

Cassini/Huygens results for the Titan Haze

Dr. West will review what is known about Titan’s massive global haze.  Most remarkable is the behavior of a thin high layer which has undergone a large-amplitude seasonal change in altitude, returning to the altitude observed by the Voyager cameras almost 30 years (1 Titan year) earlier.
Dr. West is an atmospheric planetary scientist based at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in southern California. He is a member of the Cassini team and has worked on the Voyager and Galileo missions to the outer planets.

The Evolution of Saturn's F Ring

Saturn's rings are one of the most spectacular objects in the solar system. Analysis of their origin, evolution, and eventual demise can provide insight into the formation of our solar system as well as planetary formation processes in general. This talk will provide a brief overview of the ring systems of the giant planets, the basic principles of photometry, and how we have applied photometry to Saturn's F ring.

Cracking under the stress: Europa's orbit, tides, and fracture systems

Europa’s surface records a complex history of geologic activity including fracture systems driven by tidal stress, which varies daily as Europa executes its eccentric orbit. Obliquity, physical libration, and non-synchronous rotation would also contribute to the pattern of tidal stress on Europa. Hence, we can use observed fracture systems to constrain these rotational parameters. Using cycloids and strike-slip faults, Dr. Rhoden has been able to probe Europa’s rotation state and uncover the first geologic evidence of non-negligible obliquity. Dr.

Geophysical evidence for an ocean on Titan

Whether or not Titan currently possesses a subsurface ocean is crucial for understanding its long-term evolution. In this talk Prof. Nimmo will present two lines of evidence suggesting the existence of a subsurface ocean, probably ammonia-rich.

New Horizons: NASA's Historic Mission to the Pluto System and Beyond

In 2006 NASA launched a sophisticated robotic explorer to make the first reconnaissance of planet Pluto and its moons, three billion miles from the Sun. That spacecraft is called New Horizons. The principal investigator of New Horizons, Dr. Alan Stern, will describe the mission, it's full objectives, and will describe the new class of planets that Pluto represents.

Computer simulations of convection and magnetic field generation in planets

Dr. Glatzmaier will describe his studies of fluid flows and the magnetic fields they generate in the electrically conducting interiors of terrestrial planets, like the Earth, of giant planets, like Jupiter, and of satellites, like Europa, that orbit around giant planets. Dr. Glatzmaier develops computer models that solve a set of coupled nonlinear differential equations that describe the main physics of the problem in order to simulate the 3D time-dependent evolution of the flows and fields.

Titan: Past, Present and Future

The results of the Cassini/Huygens mission raise many questions about the source and fate of methane on Titan. Understanding the methane cycle on Titan is key to understanding its past history and future evolution and provide a context for considering life on Titan that uses methane for its biological solvent. Dr. McKay, a member of the Huygens science team, will describe a new model for Titan's geological cycle that may indicate it's current thick atmosphere is a transient phenomenon.

Titan Unveiled

 Saturn's giant moon Titan has been of considerable interest since the presence of an atmosphere was hinted at one century ago. The NASA-ESA-ASI Cassini-Huygens mission, at Saturn for the last 4 years, has transformed this curious dot in the sky into a remarkably diverse, complex and interesting world, which is in many ways more Earth-like than anywhere in the solar system. This talk will summarize some of Cassini's recent findings with emphasis on the interactions between Titan's surface, atmosphere, and interior.


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