Campus Life  

Jet Propulsion scientist decodes comets in public speaker series

Okanagan College Media Release

What can comets tell us about the origin of the solar system?

A lot, if you’re Dr. Paul Weissman, Senior Research Scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Weissman will be the Harlow Shapley Astronomy lecturer for a series of public presentations at Okanagan College. This talk is co-presented by the American Astronomical Society and Okanagan College (and the Science in Society Speaker Series in Vernon).

Weissman will unveil scientists’ understanding of the origin of the solar system through the investigation of comets. His talks will be presented at three different locations and dates:

· 11:30 a.m. - 12:20 p.m., Wednesday, March 23, 2011 - Kelowna campus lecture theatre (S104) – FREE

· 7:30 – 9 p.m., Wednesday, March 23, 2011 – Vernon campus lecture theatre (D310) - Admission is $5 in advance or $7 at the door. Please contact the Okanagan Science Centre www.okscience.ca or call (250) 545-3644 for advanced purchase of tickets or for more information. Proceeds from the admission support the Science in Society Speaker Series (a joint project by the Okanagan Science Center and Okanagan College)

· 7:30 - 9 p.m., Thursday, March 24, 2011 - Penticton campus lecture theatre (PL107 Ashnola Building) - FREE

Comets are the most primitive bodies in the solar system. They contain a mix of volatile ices, organics, and silicate dust brought together 4.5 billion years ago when the solar system formed. For that reason, comets retain a record of physical and chemical conditions in the solar nebula at that critical time in our past. Scientific exploration of comets using interplanetary spacecraft has greatly increased our knowledge of these primitive bodies over the past decade. Weissman will review recent results from missions such as Deep Space 1, Stardust, Deep Impact, EPOXI, and Stardust-Next, and what they have told us about how our solar system came to be.

Weissman was a co-investigator on NASA’s Galileo mission to Jupiter and is an Interdisciplinary Scientist on ESA’s Rosetta mission to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko; he is also a co-investigator on several Rosetta instruments. He is the author of over 115 refereed publications in the scientific literature and 30 popular articles, is an editor of the Encyclopedia of the Solar System (Academic Press, 2007) and co-author of The Great Voyager Adventure, a children’s book written with Alan Harris. Weissman received his Ph.D. in Planetary and Space Physics from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1978, and his A.B. in Physics from Cornell University in 1969.

This event is sponsored by American Astronomical Society and Okanagan College.

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