RAS Public Lecture: Cassini - The Grand Finale

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Cassini - The Grand FinaleProfessor Michele Dougherty, Imperial College London (Venue: Geological Society Lecture Theatre - no booking required) On 15 September 2017, after almost 20 years in space, NASA's Cassini spacecraft plunged into Saturn's atmosphere, sending back new and unique science and completing the end of its remarkable story of exploration: its Grand Finale.
In this lecture, Professor Dougherty will share some of the highlights from the Cassini mission and look at what we have learnt, and hope to learn, from the last six months of the mission when Cassini undertook a daring set of 22 orbits diving between the planet and its icy rings, exploring this unique region for this first time. Professor Dougherty will also explain why it was necessary for Cassini to have such a spectacular end to its mission. Michele Dougherty is a space physicist who is leading unmanned exploratory missions to Saturn and Jupiter. Amongst other important findings, her work led to the discovery of an atmosphere containing water and hydrocarbons around Saturn's moon Enceladus — opening up new possibilities in the search for life. Michele is principal investigator for the magnetometer (MAG) instrument on board the Cassini spacecraft on its mission to explore Saturn and its neighbourhood. She and her team measured the level and direction of magnetic materials from the atmosphere of Saturn and the moons visited by Cassini. Michele's innovative use of magnetic field data has therefore had an enormous impact on our understanding of the moons in our Solar System. Michele was the lead investigator for the European Space Agency's JUICE spacecraft, scheduled to go into orbit around Jupiter's largest moon, Ganymede, in 2032, and was recently selected as Principal Investigator for its magnetometer. She received the Royal Astronomical Society's 2017 Gold Medal recognising her lifetime achievements.