The Cassini Mission to Saturn

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A public lecture by Dr Emma Bunce


The NASA/ESA Cassini-Huygens mission is the largest interplanetary spacecraft to be launched to another planet. In June 2004, the Cassini spacecraft entered orbit around Saturn to begin the first in-depth study of the planet and its domain. The Saturn system has provided an incredible wealth of opportunities for exploration and discovery. The spacecraft is now conducting a second extended mission - the Cassini Solstice Mission. On January 14, 2005, the Huygens probe also achieved humankind's first landing on a body in the outer solar system.

During its 7 years in orbit around Saturn (so far) Cassini has made in-depth investigations of the planet, its ring system, the orbiting moons, and the magnetosphere.  Major results and mysteries from the mission so far span a range of topics such as the elusive planetary rotation rate, the discovery of geological activity on Enceladus, the discovery of new ringlets, new moons near the rings, and a moon stealing particles from the narrow F ring.

As well as introducing general highlights from the mission, a particular focus of this talk will be on the effects of Saturn's rapidly rotating magnetosphere and the origins of Saturn's dynamic auroral emissions.

Dr Emma Bunce is a Reader in the Dept. of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester. She is part of the Cassini magnetometer team, and is mainly interested in comparing planetary magnetospheres and their auroral emissions. She is a member of the RAS Council.

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