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International Edition Winners 2011: Turkey, Target 2, Grade 11th

International Edition Winners 2011: Turkey, Target 2, Grade 11th


Tunahan Sonat
Rhea and Titan
Rhea and Titan
Tunahan Sonat

11th Grade
TED Koleji Istanbul, TED High School
Istanbul





"Considering the potential information that can be acquired by sending Cassini to any of the three targets, I strongly believe target two would yield the best overall science return. Titan and Rhea offer much to be discovered; we don't have large amounts of information about the extensive features of the two largest moons of Saturn, the planet famous for its rather ostentatious rings.

Titan is the second largest moon in our solar system. Titan has many features similar to those of Earth: a terrain composed of rock and water in the form of ice, a layered atmosphere, weather components such as wind and rain, a liquid cycle, and seasons. Titan has often been compared to Earth due to these similar features. According to Robert M. Nelson, a senior research scientist, the ammonia, methane, and nitrogen found in the atmosphere of Titan make it resemble a nascent Earth. Therefore, we may be able to learn more about our own planet if we learn more about Titan. However, the most distinct and perhaps interesting feature of Titan is its possibility of being home to living microorganisms. Astrobiologists believe methanogens, organisms that require methane to survive, could be present on Titan. Scientists Heather Smith and Chris McKay have suggested in a paper published in 2005 that these bacteria may thrive on the acetylene, ethane, and hydrogen found on Titan. According to the paper, information acquired from the Huygens probe missions to Titan shows a depletion of the chemicals which may indicate that organisms use it for their life functions.

Rhea is much smaller than Titan; and we know even less about it. It is known to have a rocky core surrounded by an icy shell. This hard-limb structure makes it easy to locate; this means it is possible to calculate Rhea's orbit precisely. There is still a lot of information that needs to be discovered about Rhea. Scientists want to know how often Rhea is hit by meteors, how it interacts with the magnetic field of Saturn, and if it certainly has rings. With so much potential information that can be acquired, sending Cassini to image Rhea could reveal to scientists a great amount of new knowledge and a better understanding of this moon.

When compared to the other targets, there is no doubt that more information can be acquired by sending Cassini to Titan and Rhea. The first target, Hyperion, has much less information to offer and is very difficult to locate due to its chaotic rotation. The third target, Saturn, does have a good amount of new information to offer, but more is already known about Saturn than is known about both Rhea and Titan.

Overall, both Titan and Rhea would pave the way for many potential discoveries such as extraterrestrial life on Titan and the interaction between Rhea and Saturn's magnetic field that may help scientists and researchers find answers and give them a comprehensive understanding of many important research topics.
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