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13 - 15 years old - Saturn's rings, with three of Saturn's moons: Tethys, Enceladus, and Mimas


Lucía Villena González
Cristina Villanueva Corona

Four centuries after the discovery of Saturn, we have delved into the study of this mysterious planet. The US Space Agency (NASA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the italian agency (ASI) have designed the Cassini-Huygens mission to study Saturn and its satellites.
Saturn in Roman mythology was the father of Jupiter. Legend says that this God killed all their children, to avoid being overthrown, but was eventually defeated by Zeus, the god who represents Jupiter.
Saturn is a gaseous planet, the sixth planet from the Sun, and the second in size and mass, after Jupiter. It is also the only one with a ring system visible from Earth. Saturn's rings were first observed in July 1610 by Galileo Galilei. It has a set of four planetary rings, composed of dust and other small particles orbiting the planet.
We believe that the target should be Saturn and its satellites, primarily because this planet remains a mystery to mankind. It is the most oval planet in the Solar System, and the only planet with a lower density than water density. Also we do not know exactly its rotation period, because of the lack of a solid or liquid surface and because its atmosphere rotates with a different period depending on the latitude. Even more striking is the latest research indicating that the period of rotation can be changed over time due to the interaction of the magnetic field of the planet with the cryovolcanic activity of its satellite Enceladus, which emits gases in the form of geysers.
We consider it very important to continue these studies about Saturn. So we could use the plasma spectrometer of Cassini (CAPS) ship, which will allow us to know in detail Saturn's ionosphere, and changes in its magnetic field. Also, we can use the images obtained with the magnetometer included in Cassini ship.
Another interesting target is satellite Enceladus. Its surface is characterized as being old and cratered, but another part of its surface may be young and smooth. It is located in the E ring, and has recently been found to have a tenuous atmosphere. This satellite has an ocean of liquid water, which acts as a layer between the outer ice and rock core. Another of the many questions we can ask is the causes of the existence of geysers on the moon's surface. These phenomena could come from effervescent oceans, located under a crust 40 meters thick. Cassini flew over these geysers found they were composed of water vapor and hydrocarbons mixed with some small icy particles. Currently, they could further focus on the study of these phenomena, because the hot water could be a favorable environment for the existence of extraterrestrial life.

Last Update: 20 May 2016

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