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Saturn’s upper atmosphere to be focus of March 12 ‘Ask a Scientist’ presentation

Jess Vriesema

Jess Vriesema

One of the greatest puzzles of our outer solar system relates to why the upper atmospheres of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are several times hotter than we would expect if they were heated by the sun alone. Despite almost 50 years of study, this question remains unanswered, partly because scientists have not had enough data to test their ideas.

NASA's recent Cassini mission provided a treasure trove of data and discoveries that could help scientists address this mystery and others like it in the context of Saturn.

Jess Vriesema, an associate lecturer in the computer science and mathematics departments at UW-Eau Claire, will provide an overview of Cassini’s exciting Grand Finale discoveries during his “Ask a Scientist” presentation March 12. Vriesema’s talk, "What Electrodynamics Can Tell Us About Saturn's Upper Atmosphere," will begin at 7 p.m. at the Acoustic Café in downtown Eau Claire. The event is free and open to all.

“By studying Saturn, we learn more about how giant planets work,” Vriesema says. “This helps us appreciate and understand both the giant planets in our own solar system and those beyond.”

The "Ask a Scientist" series, a partnership between the UW-Eau Claire biology department and the education committee of Mayo Clinic Health System-Eau Claire, is aimed at bringing a better understanding of scientific findings to the public in ways that can be understood by everybody.

For more information about the "Ask a Scientist" series and upcoming programs, view a related story.

Top photo caption: This image of Saturn's northern hemisphere was taken by Saturn's wide-angle camera at a distance of 1.9 million miles. (Photo credit: NASA)