Montana State University

Saturn's moon topic of April 7 lecture at MSU

March 23, 2005 -- from MSU News Service

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
BOZEMAN - An Idaho space science engineer who is working on an experiment aboard the Cassini spacecraft will speak about NASA's remarkable multi-year study of Saturn and its enigmatic moon Titan in a lecture scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, April 7 in Reid Hall at Montana State University.

David Atkinson, a professor at the University of Idaho and associate director of the Idaho Space Grant Consortium will speak at the event. Atkinson is the co-investigator on a Huygens probe experiment aboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft and chair of a European Space Agency group working on the probe entry and descent to Titan.

The Huygens probe was released by Cassini on Dec. 24 and arrived at Titan, the largest of Saturn's 34 known moons, on Jan. 14. Following entry into Titan's atmosphere, Huygens descended for 2.5 hours before landing. Throughout the descent, Huygens studied the atmospheric structure, chemistry and dynamics of Titan's atmosphere, and imaged the surface of Titan. Once on the ground, Huygens survived for well over an hour to take additional pictures and continue surface studies.

Titan is the only moon in the solar system with a significant atmosphere -- primarily nitrogen. It is thought to be similar to Earth's atmosphere, but it is without oxygen and extremely cold. Due to the haze in Titan's atmosphere, no one had previously seen its surface.

Atkinson's lecture is part of the Landscapes of the Mind lecture series sponsored by the MSU College of Letters and Science. For more information, call the college at 994-4288.

Contact: Sarah Alexander (406) 994-4288,