If there was ever a space project that totally exceeded the expectations of the scientific world, it has been the Cassini mission to Saturn. Launched in 1997, Cassini reached its target after a seven-year journey, and immediately began re-writing the textbooks. Now, 13 years later, we have a remarkable catalogue of amazing discoveries. Storms and a hexagonal jet-stream in the planet’s atmosphere, ripples and spokes in its rings, global oceans and oily seas on its moons – and they are just the start. But the best may be yet to come. With the spacecraft’s fuel running out, mission controllers have thrown caution to the winds in an audacious series of orbits that thread Cassini between the rings and the planet before a final plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere on 15 September. Celebrate this triumphant mission with Fred Watson, as he presents an entertaining update on all things Cassini.
says he spent so many years working in large telescope domes that he has started to look like one. He has been an astronomer at the Australian Astronomical Observatory since 1995, and his main scientific interest is in the use of novel technology to gather information on very large numbers of stars and galaxies. Until 2009, Fred was based at the AAO's telescopes in Coonabarabran, where he was Astronomer in Charge. He is now the Sydney-based Head of Lighting and Environment, working closely with state and local government and the Coonabarabran community to preserve the dark skies of the observatory.
Fred has adjunct professorships at the University of Sydney, University of Western Sydney, University of New South Wales, Macquarie University, the Queensland University of Technology and the University of Southern Queensland.
Fred is well-known for his astronomy slots on ABC radio, and his books include "Stargazer - the Life and Times of the Telescope", "Why is Uranus Upside Down? and Other Questions About the Universe", (which won the 2008 Queensland Premier's Literary Prize for Science Writing) and the ABC's blockbuster, “Universe”, for which he was chief consultant.
In January 2013, Fred launched his most recent book "Star-Craving Mad, Tales from a Travelling Astronomer" featuring many highlights from his recent journeys around the world, exploring points of astronomical interest, and in 2014, he launched a series of light-hearted science lectures called Fred Watson Presents.
In 2003, Fred received the David Allen Prize for communicating astronomy to the public, and in 2006 was the winner of the Australian Government Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Science. In January 2010, Fred was made a Member of the Order of Australia for service to astronomy, particularly the promotion and popularisation of space science through public outreach.
With all these achievements, Fred says "Of course, my biggest honour is being SASI's Patron!"
Information about the many tour programs Fred leads is at Fred Watson Tours and Events.
Fred has an asteroid named after him (5691 Fredwatson), but says that if it hits the Earth, it won't be his fault...