Discoveries at the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn

30 May 2024 18:30 - 19:30 The Royal Society Free Watch online
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NASA's Cassini spacecraft heading for the gap between Saturn and its rings during one of 22 such dives of the mission's finale.

Join us for the Royal Society Bakerian Prize Lecture 2024 given by Professor Michele Dougherty CBE FRS.

One of the most important realisations that planetary scientists have come to in the last 30 years is that in the search for potential habitability in our solar system, the focus need not only be on planets close to the Sun, where water on the surface is in liquid form. Based on observations from instruments on the GALILEO spacecraft at Jupiter and the CASSINI spacecraft at Saturn, there are many potential places in our solar system where liquid water oceans may exist below the surface.

In this lecture, Professor Michele Dougherty will discuss discoveries made by CASSINI scientists, as well as future discoveries waiting to be made at Jupiter’s moons with the European Space Agency mission JUICE. The JUICE mission was successfully launched from Kourou in French Guiana in April 2023.

The JUICE spacecraft will spend at least three years making detailed observations of the giant planet Jupiter and three of its largest moons, Ganymede, Callisto and Europa, which all show hints of hosting liquid water oceans beneath their crusts. On Earth, life thrives in the deepest, darkest parts of our oceans near hydrothermal vents. Could life similarly evolve or survive in the ocean floors of these moons?

About the award

The Bakerian Medal and Lecture 2024 is awarded to Professor Michele Dougherty CBE FRS for her scientific leadership of the Cassini magnetic field instrument at Saturn, seminal research findings on potential life support on Enceladus and leadership of forthcoming missions to probe Jupiter’s icy moons.

Michele Dougherty is a Professor of Space Physics at Imperial College London. She is leading unmanned exploratory missions to Saturn and Jupiter and was the Principal Investigator for the magnetometer instrument onboard the CASSINI mission to Saturn as well as being the Principal Investigator for the magnetometer for the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) of the European Space Agency that launched in April 2023. She is Head of the Physics Department at Imperial College London, is a Fellow of the Royal Society, was awarded the Royal Astronomical Society Geophysics Gold medal in 2017, a CBE in the 2018 New Year’s Honours List and was awarded the Institute of Physics 2018 Richard Glazebrook Gold Medal and Prize.

The Bakerian Medal and Lecture is the premier lecture in physical sciences. The lectureship was established through a bequest by Henry Baker FRS of £100 for 'an oration or discourse on such part of natural history or experimental philosophy, at such time and in such manner as the President and Council of the Society for the time being shall please to order and appoint'. The lecture series began in 1775. The medal is of silver gilt, is awarded annually and is accompanied by a gift of £10,000.

Attending the event

  • The event is free to join
  • Registration on Eventbrite is highly recommended
  • Live subtitles will be available in-person and virtually

Attending in person

Attending live online

  • The lecture will also be livestreamed here and on the Royal Society YouTube channel
  • You can take part in the live Q&A
  • This event will be recorded and will be available on YouTube soon after the event


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Image: © NASA