content long 22-October-2017 12:02:36

Winners United Kingdom

13-15 years old: Ice plumes at the south pole of Enceladus

 Author: Nilusha Perera

All three possibilities of exploration are fascinating, Titan has the possibility of being the closest known body with properties similar to the Earth, and investigating Saturn’s hexagon could lead to a better understanding of weather on other planets, but I believe that the Enceladus’ Plumes are the most worth investigating.

Enceladus is extremely interesting in itself, the fact that it has an ocean below its surface, suggesting some form of heat source that could possibly be a hydrothermal vent, and this causes the water vapour to break through the surface. These exploding geysers have the appearance of tiger stripes, if we image this area, we can find out why. We would also be able to find out if there if a possibility of life.

A key reason for why I chose this was because of the possibility of life on this planet, because if we are able to find examples of other life forms that do not live on earth, we might be able to deduce how life is created in general, not just how we were created. I think this is very important as this gives us a sense of purpose, and the majority of people would have wondered why we exist. Finding out how we were made could help us to answer these questions. It is thought that for life we need a liquid medium, and as Enceladus has water there is a genuine possibility of some form of life existing on this planet, even though light cannot reach this planets ocean, we know that light is not essential to life. If Cassini is to image this planet, we could potentially widen our knowledge about life forms and even find a new type!

In addition to this, the fact that Enceladus has a hydrothermal vent in itself is important, they could help us learn a lot more about deep sea creatures and how they survive. Studying the vents, which are the cause of the plumes could help us to determine how the earliest forms of life functioned. We could have the chance to learn more about extremophiles, and these could benefit us as they may have chemical properties that make them valuable, this could revolutionise our industry.

Finally, the geysers of Enceladus lead us to ask many questions, such as how a moon so cold, around -200 degrees Celsius, could have active geological features, such as the hydrothermal vents that could have possibly been the cause of this. If this is the case, it could mean that moons like Enceladus could in fact have warm cores, and this would mean that we have a lot to learn about how celestial bodies are formed.

To conclude, I believe that we should image Enceladus and its plumes, find out how they occur, and see if this affects our knowledge of the formation of the universe. If this is not enough, it also provides the exciting possibility of extra-terrestrial life, and could aid us in learning more about life on Earth.

Last Update: 19 May 2017

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