Fiske Planetarium To Host Lecture On Rosetta Mission

Dr. Joel Parker is the Deputy PI on the Alice UV spectrograph on the Rosetta mission. Image Credit: JPL

Dr. Joel Parker is the Deputy PI on the Alice UV spectrograph on the Rosetta mission. Image Credit: JPL

March 12, 2015 – Dr. Joel Parker of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder will present two public sessions on the progress of the Rosetta mission at Fiske Planetarium. He’ll explain Rosetta’s expedition so far, give a glimpse of what will happen next, and share the excitement of why scientists study comets and what comets tell us about the evolution of our solar system.

The public event will begin at 7 p.m. and there are two separate nights, March 19 and 20, to make it easier for everyone to attend. Current University of Colorado students with a valid Buff ID card can attend the presentation free on Thursday, March 19th only! Tickets are available to the public for $10 for adults, and $7 for children/students/seniors.

Parker is a research astronomer, space mission manager, and director of the SwRI Planetary Science Directorate. He studied astronomy and physics at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Colorado at Boulder, receiving his Ph.D. in 1992. He has worked at NASA in Houston and Maryland, and among other projects, has been a scientist for telescopes that have flown on the space shuttle, and has used the Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories in space and around the world for his research on comets, asteroids, and massive stars.

Parker has been a science team member and project manager on space missions to the Moon, comets, and the outer solar system. He serves as the deputy principal investigator for the Alice ultraviolet imaging spectrometer, one of three NASA instruments aboard the European Space Agency Rosetta comet orbiter.

Alice is a highly miniaturized spectrometer built by SwRI to probe the atmosphere and surface of Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko/67P. Spectrographs split or disperse light – ultraviolet light in Alice’s case – from objects into wavelengths. Alice’s data is being used to analyze the composition of the comet’s atmosphere, map its surface, and study the properties of fine dust particles coming off the comet.

Rosetta became the first spacecraft to orbit a comet in August of 2014. Rosetta’s rendezvous with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko opened a new chapter in Solar System exploration. Comets are considered to be the building blocks of the Solar System and may have helped to seed the Earth with water, making life possible. Rosetta is helping to answer fundamental questions about the origin and evolution of our solar system and the role that comets may have played.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit Fiske Planetarium’s website.