University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy
Home > About > News > News >

General News

Van Vleck Lecture: Don Gurnett -- Voyager’s journey to interstellar space


After a journey of more than 36 years a spacecraft, Voyager 1, has for the first time crossed the heliopause into interstellar space. In his talk Professor Don Gurnett of the University of Iowa will review some of the great achievements of the planetary phase of the Voyager mission, often called the “The Grand Tour of the Outer Planets,” and describe the long quest to reach the heliopause and cross into interstellar space. The lecture is at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 6th at the University of Minnesota Tate Laboratory of Physics, Room 150, 116 Church Street Street SE, Minneapolis.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

Live streaming will be at:

Don Gurnett is the James A. Van Allen/Roy J. Carver Professor of Physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Iowa. He began his career in 1958 by working on the design of spacecraft electronics as an undergraduate engineer in James Van Allen’s cosmic ray research group shortly after Van Allen’s discovery of Earth’s radiation belts using Explorer 1, the first U.S. spacecraft. After receiving his Ph.D. in physics at Iowa, he spent one year at Stanford University as a NASA trainee and then joined the Physics faculty at Iowa in 1965, where has been to the present time. He led the development of instruments on more than 30 spacecraft projects, including many early Earth-orbiting spacecraft, and on several major planetary missions such as the famous Voyager 1 and 2 flights to the outer planets, the Galileo mission to Jupiter, and the Cassini mission to Saturn. His research primarily involves the study of radio emissions and waves that are generated in hot ionized gases, called plasmas, that occur in planetary magnetospheres and in the solar wind which is a hot ionized gas flowing outward from the Sun. These plasmas produce many different types of radio emissions and plasma waves that can provide crucial information on key properties of the plasma, such as the density and temperature, and even the rotation rate of the planet, as is the case for the outer planets.

About the Van Vleck lecture series:
The 38th Annual Van Vleck lecture is hosted by the School of Physics and Astronomy in the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering in memory of former faculty member and Nobel Laureate John H. Van Vleck. Since 1983, the Van Vleck lecture series has brought distinguished scientists to the University.

More information at