Wellesley College Family and Friends Weekend Features
Distinguished Faculty Lecture on Solar System Exploration

For immediate release:
October 7, 2004

Arlie Corday,

WELLESLEY, Mass. -- Wellesley College will celebrate its annual Family and Friends Weekend Friday, Oct. 22-Sunday, Oct. 24. A highlight will be the Friday, Oct. 22 Distinguished Faculty Lecture, “Celestial Worlds Discover'd: Exploration of the Solar System,” with Richard French, professor of astronomy, at 4:30 pm in Alumnae Hall.

“For most of human history, the planets were simply points of light in the sky, and it is only in modern times that we have begun to learn the true nature of each of these celestial worlds,” French said. “The story of these discoveries tells us as much about ourselves and our own planet as it does about our local neighborhood in the universe.”

French’s research centers on the rings and atmospheres of the giant planets. He uses large optical telescopes around the world, the enormous radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, and the Hubble Space Telescope to obtain images of Saturn’s rings, atmosphere and small moons. He has been a team member of NASA’s Cassini Mission to Saturn since 1990.

“From 2004-2008, my students and I will be active rocket scientists as we instruct the giant spacecraft to observe Saturn’s rings and atmosphere,” said French, who has just begun a new project to travel around the world with a small student-operated telescope to observe Pluto and Triton (Neptune’s largest moon) when they pass in front of distant stars. “We’ll use these occultations to determine the temperature and density of the tenuous atmospheres of these cold and remote worlds,” he said.

On Saturday, Oct. 23, Family and Friends Weekend participants will hear the President’s Address by Diana Chapman Walsh at 3:30 pm in Houghton Memorial Chapel. That evening, there will be a South African Benefit Concert from 8-10 pm in the chapel featuring student performance groups. The student theatre group Upstage will present Travels with My Aunt in Ruth Nagel Jones Theatre in Alumnae Hall Oct. 21 at 7 pm, Oct. 22 at 8 pm, Oct. 23 at 2 and 8 pm, and Oct. 24 at 7 pm. On Sunday, Oct. 24, musical performances will be offered by student groups as well as the Lydian String Quartet, which will present a concert at 7 pm in Jewett Auditorium. During the weekend, a brochure with myriad events and their times and locations will be available. Events are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Student Activities at 781-283-3725.