Cassini spacecraft mission launches topics for spr...

Cassini spacecraft mission launches topics for spring MTSU Star Party series

The spring MTSU Department of Physics and Astronomy Star Party series kicks off Friday, Feb. 2, as associate professor Chuck Higgins discusses “Cassini’s Grand Finale at Saturn.”

Higgins will give highlights of the 20-year Cassini mission during his 45- to 60-minute talk, scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. in Wiser-Patten Science Hall Room 102.

The Cassini spacecraft's grand finale

In this still from the short film “Cassini’s Grand Finale,” the spacecraft is shown diving between Saturn and the planet’s innermost ring. (Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech)

MTSU’s First Friday Star Parties are a way for the department to bring the MTSU, Murfreesboro and surrounding communities together. Each event features a lecture followed by telescope viewing outdoors, weather permitting.

The event, which is free, is open to the public. Attendees should dress warmly for the outdoor portion.

To find free parking after 6 p.m. at Wiser-Patten, visit Handicapped-accessible requires a state permit.

Dr. Chuck Higgins

Dr. Chuck Higgins

Launched in 1997, the Cassini mission to Saturn ended in September 2017.

“The grand finale was a daring six-month maneuver to alter the spacecraft orbit around Saturn, passing multiple times through Saturn’s upper atmosphere, to make a final plunge into the planet,” Higgins said. “Based on longevity and scientific discoveries, Cassini was arguably one of NASA’s most successful spacecraft missions.”

In addition to the Friday event, other Star Party topics scheduled this semester include:

  • March 2 — “The Invisible Universe and How We See It” with Dr. John Wallin.
  • April 6 — “Funky Fizix in Film” with Dr. Eric Klumpe.
  • May 4 — “Space Oddity” with Dr. Irina Perevalova.

For more information about the series or the astronomy program, call 615-898-2130 or visit

Including physics and astronomy, MTSU has more than 240 combined undergraduate and graduate programs. The Department of Physics and Astronomy is one of 11 departments in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences.

— Randy Weiler (

Spring 2018 MTSU Star Party information