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2001 Edition -- Target 3: Saturn, Grade 9 to 12 Winner

2001 Edition -- Target 3: Saturn, Grade 9 to 12 Winner


Adam Neu
Titan and Tethys
Saturn
Adam Neu

11th Grade
Fairport High School
Fairport, N.Y.

Teacher: Gene Gordon


"In the near future, the Cassini Spacecraft will have the opportunity to take pictures of three different targets in space. These targets are Hyperion, Rhea and Titan, and Saturn. While all of these targets have substantial scientific merit, I feel that Saturn is the best choice. Saturn has many unique properties, and the chance to discover more about them will prove to be advantageous for everyone.

One of the numerous reasons that Cassini should take pictures of Saturn is to gain more information about Saturn's unique weather. The winds on Saturn are much greater than of those on Earth, and it is speculated that they can reach up to 1800km/hr. Saturn also has enormous storms, like the Dragon Storm, Serpent Storm, and the Great White Spot. Due to Saturn entering a new season, shadows will be cast onto the southern hemispheres, so Cassini will be able to take pictures of the Serpent storm, which wasn't previously possible. Studying Saturn's weather phenomena could teach us more about the causes of weather so we can better predict it on Earth. Gathering information on weather is one of the benefits of taking photos of Saturn.

Saturn also has unique properties in its northern hemisphere. Recently, photos have revealed a bright blue color in Saturn's northern hemisphere. It is suspected that this blue color is caused by Rayliegh scattering, or the scattering of light from particles smaller than that wavelength of light. This theory of Rayliegh scattering is not confirmed though, and photos taken by Cassini could shed light on the matter. Discovering some new effect that could cause this blue light would be an amazing accomplishment for Cassini. Around Saturn's north pole, there is also a massive formation of clouds that form a hexagonal shape. Each side of the hexagon is longer than Earth's diameter. Scientists don't yet know what causes these hexagonal patterns, but understanding a weather formation of this magnitude could be vital in understanding Earth's own weather. Saturn has many undiscovered characteristics that make it a fantastic research opportunity for Cassini.

Gathering insight on Saturn's internal composition also makes Saturn a primary target for Cassini. Scientists currently don't known what materials make up Saturn's core. It is thought to be a rock core with liquid metallic hydrogen around it, but there is no proof. Finding a way learn more about the core could help explain many of Saturn's anomalies. Such a method would help figure out Saturn's exact speed of rotation, how it is less dense than water, why the poles are warmer than the rest of the planet, and how Saturn is able to give off its own light. All of these questions are important to solve if we want to understand our universe, and they make Saturn a fine research target.

Saturn, one of the most beautiful planets in our solar system, is filled with questions just asking to be answered. This is why I think Cassini should take images of Saturn"