Follow this link to skip to the main content

International Edition Winners 2012: Turkey, Target 1, 9th Grade

International Edition Winners 2012: Turkey, Target 1, 9th Grade


Arman Mutlak
Pan
Target 1, Pan
Arman Mutlak

ISTEK Private Atanur Oguz High School
9th Grade


"Humans have dedicated themselves to finding beautiful and new things since their existence. Pan –aka Saturn XVIII- is the smallest moon of Saturn. It looks like a wallnut and named after the God of the Woods. This Greek God had a goat's hooves and horns. Pan is located in the Encke Gap and therefore it is the nearest moon to Saturn. Pan's discovery story started by Voyager-2 spotting the gravity disturbance in the Encke Gap. Cuzzi and Scargle suggested that a moon in this gap could be the reason of this disturbance but they couldn't prove it. Mark Showalter discovered the existance of Pan by looking at the images taken by Voyager 2. In my opinion it is now Cassini's turn to examine Pan.

One reason why Pan should be examined is its unique shape. Being shaped like a wallnut with a 20 km diameter could be explained by its having a low density and as a result, expanding in the middle. But when its rotation is observed, it is seen that it takes 14 hours to complete a whole orbit -which is too slow to form its shape as stated previously- The next possibility for its shape is that it could be made out of Saturn's rings. Its structure being very light, porous and icy confirms the second explanation but it will be Cassini which will really confirm this guess made by using simulators. Understanding how the icy particles piled up to make this shape could shed light on how matter in the protoplanetary disks of our Solar System that formed around our Sun could have clumped together to make planets.

The second and most important reason to observe Pan is the great achievements it does although it is a small satellite. First of all it keeps the Encke gap open. Pan is the second celestial body detected to form gravity disturbance, since the discovery of Neptune in 1894. It keeps the Encke gap just like a shepherd keeps his sheep together. This is the reason why its name is shepherd moon as well. Moreover, Pan forms stripes called "wakes" on the rings. More accurate information will be obtained when these stripes which are placed to both sides of Saturn rings are observed.

Still many properties of Pan are unknown. Although it is a small satellite it has been the subject of many great missions. If you ask me all these reasons lead us to make Cassini's next flyby by Pan."