Mike Malaska is a Scientist in the Planetary Ices Group at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. His planetary geology research program has focused on the interface of chemical and geological processes on Saturn's moon Titan based on data returned by the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft. These studies examine how liquid hydrocarbon rains and rivers on that world have eroded and dissolved a landscape made of organic materials layered upon rock-hard water ice.
Back to the annual meeting of the AAS Division for Planetary Sciences this week, where Mat Kaplan visited with experts on worlds of ice including Titan and Pluto, with a side trip to the dunes of Iran.
Citizen Science projects let volunteers easily contribute to active science programs. They're useful when there is so much data it overwhelms computing algorithms (if they exist) or the scientific research team attempting to process it.
Cassini captured this 22-frame animation of the "spokes" in Saturn's rings on 7 September 2009. Scientists think that the spokes are made of fine dust electrostatically levitated above the ring surface, made more visible by the low-angle lighting that occurs near equinox. (It may also be possible that the spoke phenomenon only occurs at this season; scientists don't yet know for sure). The images were aligned and their contrast adjusted to make this animation smooth. A higher-resolution version can be downloaded from Mike Malaska's flickr page.