Pluto the topic of Rowan's spring equinox lecture

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The Department of Physics & Astronomy and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Rowan University will host their annual Spring Equinox Lecture on Thursday, March 29, at 7 p.m. in Betty Long Rowa

The Department of Physics & Astronomy and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Rowan University will host their annual Spring Equinox Lecture on Thursday, March 29, at 7 p.m. in Betty Long Rowan Lecture Hall, Rowan Hall (the engineering building off Bowe Blvd.).

Dr. Hal Weaver, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, will present "To Pluto and Beyond: Exploring the Solar System's Third Zone."

Pluto was discovered in 1930 but remained an enigma for more than 60 years because it was so different from the other planets in the solar system, according to Weaver. The discovery during the past decade of hundreds of similar objects just beyond Neptune's orbit, a vast region now called the Kuiper belt, revolutionized the view of the solar system and helped to place Pluto in its proper context, he said. Pluto can now be viewed as the gateway to the debris disk that is a fossil of the planetary formation process, which terminated roughly 4 billion years ago.

The recent findings that Pluto has at least three moons and that many large Kuiper belt objects also have companions, and the discovery of other Pluto-sized objects in the Kuiper belt, highlight the intriguing nature of these icy dwarf objects at the outskirts of our solar system, Weaver said. The in-situ exploration of Pluto and the Kuiper belt is about to begin with the successful launch of the New Horizons mission in January 2006. The New Horizons spacecraft received a gravity boost during a close approach to Jupiter and now is hurtling toward an encounter with Pluto in July 2015.

According to his website, Weaver has been pursuing space-borne, rocket-borne, airborne, and ground-based investigations in planetary science since 1978. He has published more than 90 papers, including studies of planets, satellites and comets.

Weaver's presentation is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Dr. Karen Magee-Sauer at 856/256-4395 or at sauer@rowan.edu.

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