“Fascinating Objects in our Solar System” at UC Berkeley International Year of Astronomy 2009 Public Talks: 10.17.09

by Eric on October 16, 2009

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For this month’s talk, Imke de Pater, Professor of Astronomy, will be speaking on the latest scientific discoveries in the Solar System:

Imke de Pater is a professor in the Department of Astronomy at UC Berkeley, and a world-renowned planetary scientist. She is an authority on modeling and mapping the planets of our solar system, and led a worldwide campaign to observe the impact of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter in 1994. A frequent user of the huge Keck telescopes in Hawaii, she has discovered methane drizzle on Saturn’s moon Titan, modeled Jupiter’s magnetic fields, and revealed the dynamic behavior of Neptune’s skies. Her graduate-level textbook, “Planetary Sciences”, co-authored with Jack J. Lissauer, was the winner of the 2007 Chambliss Award for Astronomical Writing from the American Astronomical Society.

Our Solar System is comprised of bodies varying in size from the giant planet Jupiter, 12 times larger than our Earth, down to bodies less than a few kilometers in size, and further down to microscopically small dust grains. The planets and their satellites are now known to us as individual worlds, some of which show similarities to Earth (e.g., Titan, Mars), whereas others exhibit such extreme volcanism that even the largest volcanoes on Earth are dwarfed in comparison (Io, Enceladus). The giant planets are surrounded by rings, systems which are unique to each planet. In these systems we observe details that help us understand the physical processes in the early solar nebula that led to planet formation 4.5 billion years ago, which are still now operational in disks around other stars. Once in a while comets approach the Sun and exhibit fantastic displays. Remote observations and in situ analysis of cometary gases and dust grains help us understand the early epoch of planet formation in our Solar System.

In this talk Prof. de Pater will give you a tour through our Solar System. Using her team’s observations from the 10-m Keck telescope, together with Hubble Space Telescope and spacecraft data, she will give you an up-to-date picture of several of the most fascinating objects therein.

The talk is at 11:00am at the Genetics and Plant Biology Building, Room 100 on the UC Berkeley campus. Doors open at 10:30. For more details visit UC Berkeley Astronomy’s International Year of Astronomy page. The IYA page also contains videos of previous talks in the series.

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