Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at California Institute of Technology, will give the free 2011 Bullitt lecture in astronomy at 7 p.m. in Gheens Science Hall and Rauch Planetarium. The annual lecture is intended for the general public.

Spilker’s presentation, including high-definition images and movies from the Cassini orbiter and its Huygens probe, is titled “Cassini-Huygens Explores the Saturn System: Recent Discoveries and Science Highlights.”

The discoveries include lakes and dunes on the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon; icy jets of material streaming from the tiny moon Enceladus’ south pole; three-dimensional waves in Saturn’s rings; and luminous auroras flickering over Saturn’s north pole.

Cassini-Huygens is a joint undertaking by NASA and the European Space Agency to study the Saturn system. Launched in 1997, the Cassini spacecraft arrived in Saturn’s orbit in mid-2004; the Huygens probe was dropped into the atmosphere of the Titan moon in 2005 and was the first landing in the outer solar system. 

Spilker has been involved with both the Voyager and Cassini spacecraft missions and has received numerous NASA and other awards for her research, which includes publishing more than 50 papers on Saturn and the outer planets. She has worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 1977.

The physics and astronomy department and the Gheens Science Hall and Rauch Planetarium present the annual lectures through an endowment established by the family of Louisville native and former U.S. Solicitor General William Marshall Bullitt.