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Cassini Scientist for a Day -- 2010 Edition, U.S. Winners
Target 2: Titan, Tethys and Enceladus, Grade 7 & 8

Cassini Scientist for a Day -- 2010 Edition, U.S. Winners
Target 2: Titan, Tethys and Enceladus, Grade 7 & 8


Sarah Donofrio
Titan and Tethys
Titan and Tethys
Sarah Donofrio

8th Grade
Linwood Middle School
Teacher: Patricia McCarthy
North Brunswick, N.J.


"A video of Titan, Tethys, and Enceladus, along with a glimpse of Saturn's rings, would be the most beneficial of the three targets. It provides the unique opportunity of studying four celestial bodies at once –a chance of gleaning four times as much information as with the other two targets. Target 2 is definitely the best choice for observation.

Titan is by far Saturn's most enigmatic moon. Shrouded in an orange haze comprised of various hydrocarbons, the moon's surface is blocked from view. But with the help of new technology, Cassini spacecraft is now able to penetrate this smog and reveal the wonders beneath. The most startling fact is that this distant moon bears an uncanny resemblance to Earth in its earliest years. Titan is a sphere of rock and ice, with indications of erosion by flowing water. There are numerous lakes of liquid methane and ethane, which occasionally rains from clouds as water does on our own planet. There is also evidence of volcanoes that spew liquid water. Titan is one of the most likely places inhabited by extraterrestrial life–a possibility that scientists are eager to explore.

Tethys is yet another fascinating natural satellite of Saturn's. It has recently been discovered that it hurls streams of particles out into space. This is possible because the moon is somehow being supplied with energy. If Cassini further explores this icy world, the source of energy will be discovered. This knowledge will explain some of the many mysteries of Saturn and its moons, and of other planets in our solar system.

Enceladus, like Tethys, is composed almost entirely of ice. The numerous cracks and ridges that scar the surface indicate that there may be liquid water underneath. In the south pole, plumes of frigid water and particles erupt from beneath the surface of this moon. But to set off these geysers, there must be a vast reservoir of heat. Where could Enceladus, at approximately 1.4 billion kilometers from the Sun, acquire so much warmth? This is the most perplexing mystery of all. If Cassini obtains the right information from its forays, the answer may be reached. Then Enceladus will be eligible for the ever-lengthening list of celestial bodies that possibly support life.

Saturn's glorious rings will also be visible in the video. They are of particular interest to many scientists. The biggest question of all is their age. Some claim that the rings came into being at the same time as the planets in the solar system. But others argue that if they were that old, there would be dirty ice from comets mixed with the pristine, sparkling crystals that make up the rings. Another mystery is their origin. Are the rings made up of debris from moons that were smashed by asteroids? Are they remnants of Saturn from when it was formed? These answers will help scientists understand how solar systems are created.

Target 2 will yield the most information, and therefore I select it as the best option."