04/25/2007 07:00:00

Watson Lecture: Cassini-Huygens at Saturn

PASADENA, Calif.--Saturn's iconic image as a ringed planet is both the symbol and the product of scientific discovery. For millennia the planet appeared to be just a drifting dot in the heavens, until a primitive telescope showed Galileo Galilei that Saturn had "ears." Since then each closer view of the planet with better technology has exposed new and unexpected features.

The current Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn has already produced a string of new discoveries, changing our understanding of the planet's diverse rings and moons, and yielding insight into the early history of Earth and our solar system. Dennis Matson of the California Institute of Technology and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory will describe some of these findings on Wednesday, April 25, in the third program of the winter/spring 2007 Earnest C. Watson Lecture Series.

"It was a real shock when the Huygens probe landed on Titan, Saturn's largest moon, and the landscape that it found looked very much like that of a stream-produced alluvial fan," Matson said. "So far away and yet so much like the Earth!"

Matson will present his lecture, "Cassini-Huygens at Saturn: Discovery of New Worlds, Some Familiar and Some Alien," at 8 p.m. in Beckman Auditorium, 332 S. Michigan Avenue, south of Del Mar Boulevard, on the Caltech campus in Pasadena. Seating is available on a free, no-ticket-required, first-come, first-served basis.

Matson is a senior research scientist at JPL, and also project scientist for the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and Titan. Cassini-Huygens is a joint project between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Italian Space Agency.

Caltech has offered the Watson Lecture Series since 1922, when the late Caltech physicist Earnest Watson conceived it as a way to explain science to the local community.

For more information, call (626) 395-4652. Outside the greater Pasadena area, call toll-free, 1(888) 2CALTECH (1-888-222-5832).

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Contact: John Avery (626) 395-8736 jfavery@caltech.edu

Visit the Caltech Media Relations website at: http://pr.caltech.edu/media.

Written by John Avery