Physics and Space Sciences

Public Science Lecture Series

In our monthly public Science Lecture Series we host an evening lecture on a topic of general interest in science in the auditorium Olin Engineering Complex (room EC 118, see map below) on the 4th Friday of each month during the academic year. The lectures are at 8 p.m., and are followed at 9 p.m. by a public viewing session at the campus observatory on the roof of the Olin Physical Sciences Building (weather permitting). 

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Mars: Fantastic Winds and Where to Find Them

Fri Apr 28, 2017

Dr. Timothy Dowling

Professor and Director, Atmospheric Science Program, University of Louisville


The first astronauts to Mars are likely already in elementary school(!), and government agencies like NASA and ESA (the European Space Agency), and private ones like Space X, are identifying and beginning to tackle the logistical challenges associated with boots-on-the-ground exploration of the red planet. These challenges include transportation, life support, communications, and environmental prediction. Martian meteorology has been studied scientifically for the better part of a century, and is ramping up with an eye towards operational weather forecasting in the 2030s. We will discuss the current understanding of the present and past weather on Mars, from the bottom to the top of the atmosphere, and how it compares with Earth. Imagine Earth with its turbulent planetary boundary layer, but without a troposphere or stratosphere, just a mesosphere—that is Mars. The planet's meteorology has an un-Earthly rhythm to it, but a cadence that is punctuated erratically by planet-encircling dust storms. And unlike Earth, the planet is not protected by a magnetic field; the MAVEN orbiter is actively documenting the relentless scouring by the solar wind. The fastest winds on Mars, jet streaks in the core of its northern-winter polar jet, have recently been discovered to reach Mach 1.0, sonic speed! The latest orbiter and atmospheric modeling results for Mars will be presented, with audience participation encouraged.


Prof. Dowling has been studying planetary atmospheric dynamics for over 30 years and is a leading authority on jet streams and long-lived vortices. He is the principal architec of the EPIC atmospheric model, which is used by NASA and researchers around the world to simulate the meteorology on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, as well as on Venus, Earth and Mars. In 2016, he and his team announced the discovery that the fastest jet streaks on Mars reach the speed of sound.


Want even more astronomy?

Check out the Brevard Astronomical Society for local-area amateur astronomers (including students) to meet, discuss science and equipment, tips and techniques. If you'd like to join BAS please reach out to them via email


From:    To: 

Once on campus, park in the lot adjacent to the buildings marked 1 or 2. Talks will take place in the building marked 1 (Olin Engineering Complex Auditorium, room EC 118). Observing will take place on the roof of the building marked 2 (Physical Sciences Building) weather permitting.

FIT Map Showing Location of Astro Lecture Events