Lots of amazing presentations today, running the gamut from transmission spectroscopy of hot Neptune-like planets to the detailed and puzzling architectures of multi-planet systems. But two talks really stuck out for me.
The first one, by Prof. Dan Baker at U Colorado, covered recent developments in the study of the Van Allen radiation belts (which Van Allen preferred to call “zones” — when asked by a reporter what was the function of Van Allen belts, he said they hold up Van Allen’s pants). As a member of the Radiation Belt Storm Probe mission, Baker explained what we understand and what remains mysterious about these powerful celestial phenomena suspended above our heads, including a bizarre “glass wall” that keeps charged particles at bay.
In the afternoon, Dr. Paul Weissman gave the most recent updates on the Rosetta mission, still in orbit around Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko (which Weissman called “comet CG”). Following up on the more-exciting-than-expected landing of the Philae spacecraft, Weissman explained that the lander struck a surprisingly hard sub-surface layer (comparable in strength to solid ice), which probably contributed to the lander’s unplanned ballistic trajectory around the comet. Lots of other interesting science, including more evidence about the origin of Earth’s water.