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International Edition Winners 2011: Pakistan, Target 3, 11-12

International Edition Winners 2011: Pakistan, Target 3, 11-12


Syed Abuzar Mahmud
Rhea and Titan
Rhea and Titan
Syed Abuzar Mahmud

12th Grade
Roots College International
Islamabad, Pakistan




"Saturn holds the position of the most aesthetically pleasing planet in our solar system. Saturn's rings and auroras appear strikingly beautiful through any picture. But what makes Saturn the best option for the Cassini mission are the surprising number of unexplained physical phenomena occurring on the planet.

Scientists have deduced much about the planet, but these deductions are limited to what is observable from earth or what limited data Pioneer 11, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 have provided. For example, Saturn radiates a multiple of the amount of radiation it receives from the sun out into space, which would shock most people, but we are still unable to explain how Saturn is able to generate such drastic amounts of heat. The Kelvin-Helmholtz mechanism is only part of the picture, and we still have to figure out the rest. Perhaps, the core of Saturn awaits the discovery of its phenomenal chemical or nuclear reaction, or perhaps there is some other system which powers Saturn.

It has been deduced that the body and atmosphere of Saturn are composed of Hydrogen, Helium, Methane, Water Ice and some other trace materials, but this has not been confirmed. Through the Cassini spacecraft, we can hope to collect more information about Saturn and make more accurate deductions in this area.

In recent pictures of Saturn taken by the Cassini spacecraft, it was observed that part of the northern hemisphere of Saturn was colored blue. This color was linked to Rayleigh scattering occurring in the region but another cause may present itself through Cassini's observations. Saturn also occupies the position of the windiest planet in our solar system. Both poles of Saturn have gigantic polar vortices. These storms are larger in diameter than Earth itself. The Northern Polar Vortex has a regular hexagonal shape and though a standing hexagonal wave has been proposed as its cause.

There is need to collect more data to figure out the definite cause. Saturn also frequently experiences other gargantuan storms which have proven to be large enough to be visible through amateur telescopes on earth.

Furthermore, Saturn demonstrates its uniqueness with its unique rotational rates. Although we have set average periods for the different systems on the surface, we still are unaware of the rotational properties of the core.

The true source of the magnetic field surrounding Saturn, although proposed to be caused by the Metallic Hydrogen Oynamo, is still unknown to us.

These and many other phenomena, which hitherto seem anomalies to us, make Saturn a prized site for excavation and a true marvel. Uncovering the true nature of science and the universe around us is what drives our passion for discovery in the field of astrophysics, and such an invaluable opportunity to advance our understanding should not be missed. Saturn is the ideal target for Cassini's observation."