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Cassini Scientist for a Day -- 2010 Edition, U.S. Winners
Target 2: Titan, Tethys and Enceladus, Grade 9 to 12

Cassini Scientist for a Day -- 2010 Edition, U.S. Winners
Target 2: Titan, Tethys and Enceladus, Grade 9 to 12


Cody Minor
Titan and Tethys
Titan and Tethys
Cody Minor

12th Grade
Beatrice High School
Teacher: Joan Christen
Beatrice, Neb.


"Target two - Titan, Enceladus, Tethys, and the rings - presents the best opportunity for scientific advancement out of the three targets. The frozen, early-Earth conditions found on Titan present an appealing opportunity to investigate the possible origins of life on Earth. Tethys, Enceladus, and the E-ring of Saturn already have known interactions, this target allows for more observations about them and their interactions.

Titan is very similar to a frozen Earth. Weather patterns, geological activity, organic molecules, and a dense atmosphere are all found on Titan as well as on Earth. Instead of liquid water, Titan has liquid methane and rock hard water. For a self-replicating molecule to be forged, the early atmospheric conditions of Earth would have needed to be just right and much different than they are now. Interactions between nitrogen, methane, ultraviolet light from the sun, and other particles found in minute concentrations give rise to organic molecules. While it is much too cold for life as we know it to exist on Titan, clues to Earth's early atmospheric conditions might be gleaned from studying the formation of organic molecules on Titan. By knowing the make-up of Earth's early atmosphere, more detailed models of how life and the atmosphere evolved and affected each other might be developed.

It's already known that ice ejected from geysers on Enceladus is captured in Saturn's E-ring for a time before it plummets to the surface of Tethys. A rather significant inconsistency regarding Enceladus that warrants further research is that many factors indicate a liquid interior. Conventional science says that the interior should have frozen long ago. If scientists can find a reason that the interior is still liquid and replicate the conditions it would be a big leap towards settling planets ideal for colonization except for temperature. Another inconsistency that puzzles scientists studying Enceladus is whether or not Enceladus has active volcanoes. Currently, only two moons have been observed with active volcanoes. However, magnetometer readings indicate Enceladus has an atmosphere. Without the sufficient gravity required to maintain the atmosphere, Enceladus is either producing gas somehow, or keeping the atmosphere in a way not yet seen by scientists. Either observation would make a good scientific leap.

Tethys also has its own mysteries to investigate. Photographs from previous Cassini flybys show many colors that indicate a variety of matter not witnessed anywhere else. Tethys also shows much surface damage from bombardment of debris coming from Saturn's rings. However, certain areas show little damage, this suggests that the surface of Tethys might still be active or was active recently. Information about the Tethys, particularly its composition, would also be useful in researching Lagrangian points. Smaller moons that occupy L4 and L5 of Saturn and Tethys suggest the points could be much more stable than earlier scientists thought.

The information and observations that can be gained through target two are impressive. Even more impressive are the possible applications of the discoveries. Target two shows the most potential for scientific return."