Follow this link to skip to the main content

Cassini Scientist for a Day -- 2010 Edition Winners
Target 1: Rhea, Grade 5 & 6

Cassini Scientist for a Day -- 2010 Edition Winners
Target 1: Rhea, Grade 5 & 6


Cameron Smith
Rhea
Rhea
Cameron Smith

5th Grade
Highland School
Teacher: Gregory T. Kuebler
Warrenton, Va


"Rhea, target 1, is Saturn's second largest moon. I think Rhea is an interesting subject for further study. From recent missions, we know that Rhea is approximately 950 miles in diameter, is extremely light in weight for its size, and has two distinct sides. The leading side of Rhea is heavily cratered and includes the largest crater Izanagi which is 140 miles in diameter. The trailing side is less cratered with wispy, white streaks.

Rhea has many interesting things that we still need to learn. The biggest debate is whether or not Rhea has rings. If it does, it would be the only body other than planets to have rings. The reason for the debate is because a previous Cassini experiment showed data that made scientists believe that Rhea has rings. However, Cassini's most recent flyby did not show visible rings where scientists thought they would be. It is important to send Cassini to target 1 to solve this mystery.

An unanswered question that may be tied to the mystery of Rhea's rings is why the leading side is more heavily cratered than the trailing side. Perhaps the rings are made of dust and small pebbles from asteroids that broke apart when they hit Rhea's surface long ago and created craters. Some scientists believe that the leading side is heavily cratered because a big event may have happened to cause that side to have more craters. More pictures of Rhea could give more information that could help scientists understand what may have happened.

The wispy, white streaks on the surface of Rhea's trailing side are another area worth exploring. These streaks appear to be fractures but their cause is not known. Some scientists believe that the fractures are a result of Rhea's rocky core expanding and contracting because of extreme changes in its internal temperature. Other scientists think that the wispy, white streaks are tectonic faults. This could mean that Rhea's surface has tectonic plates just like here on Earth, so, by studying Rhea, scientists might better understand how tectonic plates work on our planet.

The mysteries of space are endless, but with Cassini we can at least begin to solve some of the key mysteries of Rhea. By exploring target 1, scientists can study whether Rhea has rings, why the leading side is so heavily cratered, and the reason behind the trailing side's wispy, white streaks. Cassini – destination Rhea!"