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Saul Krasner Memorial Science Lecture Series
Tony Del Genio, Ph.D., National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA)

"Weather Forecast for Saturn and Titan: Hazy, Windy, and Chance of Storms" 

Abstract: The Cassini Orbiter spacecraft arrived at Saturn in June 2004 and has spent the next five years observing Saturn’s exotic system of rings and satellites. Saturn and its largest moon Titan both have thick atmospheres and provide a fascinating contrast to the meteorology we are familiar with on Earth. Saturn, ten times larger than Earth and composed of hydrogen and helium, features constant winds blowing at hundreds of miles per hour, thunderstorms three times as tall as the strongest storm on Earth, and a hurricane-like vortex at its south pole. Titan has a nitrogen atmosphere like Earth’s and a stew of organic materials something like those on the primitive Earth, but at much colder temperatures. Storms of liquid methane sporadically rain down on Titan’s surface, carving channels into the ice surface and leaving small lakes behind. Dr. Del Genio presented some of the most breathtaking images of Saturn and Titan from Cassini and discussed what scientists have learned about why these planets are so different from Earth, and what questions still remain.