Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series: The Latest Results from the Cassini Mission
November 12, 2008
7 to 8:30 p.m.

As part of the 10th annual Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, Astronomer Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute will present Saturn's Restless Rings: The Latest Results from the Cassini Mission, an illustrated, non-technical lecture, Wednesday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College. Admission is free and the public is invited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has just entered its fifth year exploring the planet Saturn. Its cameras and other instruments continue to send back to Earth a treasure trove of new information about the planet, its rings, and its large family of fascinating moons. Dr. Showalter will share some of the marvelous pictures from Saturn and take a close-up look at this "lord of the rings".

Whereas we once believed Saturn's rings to be stable for millions of years, we are learning that some of the rings can change in appearance over time scales as brief as decades, or sometimes even days. The rings have revealed a variety of surprising phenomena, including "jets", "propellers", "wisps", "spokes", and "braids". We are interested in Saturn's rings not only for their own sake, but also because in them we observe some of the same processes that formed our Solar System out of a cloud of dust and debris long ago.

Showalter is a principal investigator at the Mountain View-based SETI Institute, whose research focuses primarily on ring-moon systems. He has been a member of the Cassini science team for nearly a decade, and had a lead role in planning some of Cassini's observations. He is the discoverer of Jupiter's outermost ring, Saturn's moon Pan, and two moons and two faint rings of Uranus.

The free lecture series is sponsored by the Foothill College Astronomy Program, NASA Ames Research Center, SETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Past lectures from the series are available online in MP3-format.

Visitors must purchase a campus parking permit for $2. Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the theatre. For more information, access www.foothill.edu or call (650) 949-7888.
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Special Notice: Admission is free; parking is $2.