Encountering the First Dwarf Planet

Marc Rayman, Ph.D., the mission director for NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft, will discuss Encountering the First Dwarf Planet: The Dawn Mission to Ceres, a free, illustrated, non-technical lecture Wednesday, April 8, at 7:00 p.m. in the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills.

The Dawn Spacecraft is now in orbit around Ceres —the largest asteroid in the asteroid belt and also the first dwarf planet to be discovered. Ceres was discovered January 1,1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi of Italy. As big across as Texas, Ceres’ nearly spherical body has a differentiated interior – denser material at the core and lighter minerals near the surface.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the Dawn mission. It is the first NASA exploratory mission to use ion propulsion, which enabled it to enter and leave the orbit of multiple celestial bodies.
Ion propulsion is a technology that involves ionizing a gas to propel a craft. The gas xenon is given an electrical charge, or ionized. It is then electrically accelerated to a speed of about 30 km/second. When xenon ions are emitted at such high speed as exhaust from a spacecraft, they push the spacecraft in the opposite direction.

Dr. Rayman is both mission director and chief engineer for Dawn. He has worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 1986, designing instruments for space telescopes, Mars measurements, the search for planets around other stars and laser communications with spacecraft.

Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early to locate parking.

Parking lots 1, 7 and 8 provide stair and no-stair access to the Smithwick Theater. Visitors must purchase a parking permit for $3 from dispensers in student parking lots. Dispensers accept one-dollar bills and quarters; bring exact change.

Smithwick Theater, Foothill College
12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills
(650) 949-7888

Wednesday, April 8, 2015
7:00 pm

Admission: Free
Parking: $3.00

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