Mysteries of Saturn awe and inspire

Dani Weigand

You can tell by the expression on Shane Larson’s face when you ask him about astronomy, that he’s been excited about the topic for a long time. “Ask my mother and she’ll tell you I’ve lived and breathed neutron stars and Saturn since I was a young child,” he says with a smile.

His enthusiasm for the planet Saturn was shared with a full house in the Hanson Dome Theatre last weekend through a visual journey exploring the planet’s discoveries, rings and moons.

Larson, an assistant professor of physics at Utah State University and avid amateur astronomer, explained that Saturn is fascinating for many people because the planet actually looks as it appears through a telescope, which makes it seem “real.”

I had the chance to visit with him in preparation of the event and asked which discovery on Saturn appeals most to him. His favorite Saturn phenomenon is Janus-Epimetheus Swing, which occurs approximately every 4 – 5 years when these two moons actually swap orbit for a period of time.

Scientists are continually discovering more about this mysterious planet. Those interested in following the Cassinni mission will find virtual tours, pictures and the latest information on the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory site.

Clark Planetarium extends a special thank you to Shane for sharing his passion for astronomy with our audience. If you would like to view the slide deck from his presentation, it is available for download on his web page.

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