Jet Propulsion scientist decodes comets in Penticton speaker series

Dr. Paul Weissman, senior research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will be the Harlow Shapley Astronomy lecturer for a series of public lectures about comets at Okanagan College

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 — he’s planning to share that knowledge in a series of public presentations at Okanagan College, including a lecture in Penticton.

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.

Weissman will unveil scientists’ understanding of the origin of the solar system through the investigation of comets at 7:30 p.m. in the Penticton campus lecture theatre on March 24.  This talk is co-presented by the American Astronomical Society and Okanagan College.