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Marny Skora
(Phone 757/864-3315, 757/344-6111 mobile)
RELEASE : 05-063
Real 'Lord of the Rings': Cassini Studies Saturn

Nearly 15 months after NASA’s Cassini spacecraft flew through the rings of Saturn and settled into orbit around the giant gas planet, the craft is producing data and discoveries that are awing scientists and engineers around the world.

On its first pass through this system of moons and rings, Cassini made what will be its closest encounter with the main rings, detecting an extensive oxygen atmosphere over the rings. On subsequent orbits of Saturn, the spacecraft passed through and characterized the upper atmosphere of the moon Titan in preparation for the Huygens Probe that successfully reached Titan’s surface in January. More recently, on a close pass of Enceladus, it observed that this small icy moon is active, emitting gases into Saturn’s magnetosphere.

University of Virginia Professor Bob Johnson will describe the goals of the Cassini mission, its instruments and recent observations at a Colloquium at 2 p.m. Thursday, October 6, at NASA’s Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.

Media Briefing: A media briefing will be held at 1:15 p.m. at the Reid Conference Center, 14 Langley Blvd, NASA Langley Research Center. Members of the media who wish to speak to Professor Johnson should contact Marny Skora by noon Thursday to arrange for credentials and entry on to the Center.

Johnson is the John Lloyd Newcomb Professor of Engineering Physics and Materials Science at UVA and is a member of the Cassini Spacecraft Science Team. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Colorado College in 1961 and a master’s degree in physics at the University of Wisconsin in 1968. He has authored over 240 refereed papers and 15 chapters in books. He is the recipient of several awards, including the NASA Cassini Instrument Team award.


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