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Standing on the Shoulders of (Gas) Giants

4 November, 2019 @ 7:30 pm 9:00 pm

To be presented by Professor Emma Bunce.
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester
Sponsored by British Science Association

In 1676, Newton famously wrote that “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” in a letter to Hooke. He was referring to the process of using the understanding gained by major thinkers who have gone before in order to make intellectual progress – and this phrase is aptly applied to the scientific process (and many other academic processes) in general. In this lecture, this idea will be explored in the context of two of the gas giant planets in our solar system – Jupiter and Saturn.

Jupiter has many natural satellites, the most famous of which are the Galilean moons, so-called as it was Galileo Galilei who first spotted these four diverse worlds through his telescope back in 1610. Since that time they have held a special place in our solar system. They have changed the way we view the Universe: fiery Io, smooth icy Europa, planet-sized Ganymede, and scar-covered Callisto. Not only are they fascinating in their own right, but together they form a solar system in miniature around majestic Jupiter, interacting with their parent planet and the surrounding environment through the forces of gravity and electromagnetism. The development in our understanding of these mysterious moons will be briefly introduced. The European Space Agency (ESA) mission “JUICE” (the Jupiter ICy moons Explorer) will be showcased; this will make multiple visits to Europa and Callisto, and finally be the first spacecraft to orbit the icy moon Ganymede in 2030.

Moving out to Saturn, the NASA/ESE Cassini-Huygens mission was the largest interplanetary spacecraft to be launched to another planet. During its 13 years in orbit around Saturn, 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 span a range of topic such as the elusive planetary rotation rate, the discover 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 some general highlights from the mission, the talk will focus on work carried out in Leicester, relating to the effects of Saturn’s rapidly rotating magnetosphere and the origins of Saturn’s dynamic auroral emissions.

The lecture will be held at the New Walk Museum:

New Walk Museum, 53 New Walk, Leicester LE1 7EA

New Walk Museum, 53 New Walk
Leicester, LE1 7EA United Kingdom
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