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International Edition Winners 2009: China (Senior Undergraduate)

International Edition Winners 2009: China (Senior Undergraduate)


Ai Zhang
Saturn and Rings
Saturn and Rings
Ai Zhang

Senior; Undergraduate; Beihang University (Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics)

Beijing, China



" I am an undergraduate student who decides to take a further study in Ph.D. program in image processing. The beautiful colors of Saturn’s ring fascinate me a lot. In my opinion, taking gorgeous pictures of Saturn and its rings in choice one is the best choice.

I pay great attention to images. By reading I know that color in the view is created by digitally compositing ultraviolet, infrared and clear filter images and is then adjusted to resemble natural color.

It is Saturn's ring system that makes the planet one of the most beautiful objects in the solar system. Saturn's ring system is divided up into 7 major divisions with alphabetic designators in the order of discovery. From the innermost ring to the outermost ring the designators are D, C, B, A, F, G and E. Each major division is further subdivided into thousands of individual ringlets.

I once saw a gorgeous picture of Saturn’s rings. It shows additional color differences between the inner B-ring and outer region and between these and the A-ring in addition to the previously known blue color of the C-ring and the Cassini Division. It was so beautiful and color-view. And what is more important, subtle color variations in such pictures captured by spacecraft with special computer-processing techniques can lead us to be more aware of possible variations in chemical composition from one part of Saturn’s ring system to another. Thus, choice one will benefit most.

I have known that with giant Saturn hanging in the blackness and sheltering Cassini from the sun's blinding glare, the spacecraft viewed the rings as never before, revealing previously unknown faint rings and even glimpsing its home world. Now, if we let the choice one works out, I am sure more previously unknown moonlets in the rings!

With the help of images sent by spacecraft, we now identify that the Saturn’s rings are (or appear) young, perhaps only hundreds of millions of years old. However, scientists previously thought that the rings were formed at the same time, which is flawed if we miss the opportunity to take further research by Cassini. Someone says that as Saturn travels though space, the rings accumulate dust particles that have been darkened from solar radiation. If the rings were old, they should appear dark. Another theory suggests that perhaps a comet few too close to Saturn and tidal forces broke it into pieces similar to comet Shoemaker-Levy/9. Perhaps one of Saturn's moons was struck by an asteroid smashing it into the bits and pieces that form the rings. For now, we still cannot distinguish which one is the right reason. The choice one will enable us know the answers from Cassini spacecraft.

From all above, I strongly believe that choice one is the best. "