Kathy Rages

Kathy Rages
Research Scientist
Degree/Major: 
Ph. D. Astronomy
Major Awards: 

NASA Group Achievement Award for Galileo Probe Nephelometer Experiment Team NASA Group Achievement Award for Voyager Science Investigation (ISS team) National Merit Scholarship, 1968-1972

Curriculum Vitae: 
Discipline: 
Astronomy
The meek will inherit the earth. The rest of us are going to the stars.

Astronomer Kathy Rages studies outer planet atmospheres, particularly those of Uranus and Neptune—two planets that are very similar. Except when they’re not.

These two denizens of the deep solar system are similar to one another in size, and both have a rocky core, an icy mantle, and an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium. But Uranus, in visible light, resembles a featureless cue ball. Neptune, on the other hand, sports a dynamic atmosphere characterized by prominent features such as the Voyager-era Great Dark Spot and its Bright Companion (now long gone, but replaced by other easily visible features).

Why the difference? Perhaps it has something to do with Uranus’s extreme axial tilt. Or maybe it’s because of the other big difference between the two planets: the fact that Uranus doesn’t seem to have any significant internal heat source, while Neptune generates almost three times as much heat internally as it gets from the Sun.

A quarter of a century has passed since Voyager last examined Uranus up-close. Late in 2007, spring came to Uranus' northern hemisphere as the sun passed over the equator for the first time since the development of telescopes with sharp enough vision to witness uranian weather. After decades of darkness, Kathy is expecting increased activity in Uranus’s atmosphere, and the long-lost answers to why it seems so unlike its outer-planet sibling.

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Saturn Stratospheric Hazes from Cassini Limb Images

We will analyze Cassini data to produce detailed haze extinction profiles for both northern and southern latitudes on Saturn down to pressure levels ~50 mbar, with methods similar to those used by Rages et al. (1999) on Galileo images of Jupiter, and with the expectation of similar results. We will perform a similar analysis of archival Voyager data to explore Saturn's southern mid-latitudes almost one saturnian year earlier. We will use this information to determine the fractal scattering properties of the stratospheric hazes, and in combination with a microphysics model including fractal aggregate hazes, to determine how and where these hazes are being produced, transported, and destroyed.

Target of Opportunity Imaging of an Unusual Cloud Feature on Uranus

Analysis of an unusual cloud feature on Uranus as part of the ongoing work to build a climate model and understand what makes the climate appear so different from Neptune's.

Monitoring Active Atmospheres on Uranus and Neptune

Snapshot observations of Uranus and Neptune to further understand the changes in the atmospheric bands and bright spots of these two dynamic planets.

Seasonal Changes on Uranus: Analysis of Imaging Data 1986-2006

An investigation into long-term changes on Uranus through a coordinated analysis of imaging data from 1986-2006. This study addresses a number of questions, such as: Does the asymmetry of the planet's atmosphere vary with time?