Winners - Romania
10 - 12 years old - Dione
We believe that Dione should be studied by Cassini satellite. Dione was discovered by Giovanii Cassini in 1684. Dione is one of the four moons that Cassini discovered: Tethys, Dione, Rhea and Iapetus and he named them "Sidera Lodoicea" to honor king Louis XIV. Cassini found Dione using a large aerial telescope that he set up on the ground of the Paris Observatory.
Dione shares the same name with the goddess or titan Dione. Dione has several craters as large as 100 kilometers which are usually around the trailing hemisphere of the moon and moderately, light crated plains, as well as fractured areas. A moon's leading hemisphere should be heavily crated. This fact proves that Dione was turned around 180 degrees. But we all wonder: "How did this happen?" By studying carefully and closely this rare phenomenon we will understand it and for sure that we will also unlock many other unexplained mysteries of the Universe and we will surely find out much more about Saturn.
Dione always faces Saturn with one side, just as Iapetus and Earth's Moon. Dione is gravitationally locked with two other smaller moons. These moons are Helene and Polydeuces. Helene orbits Saturn 60 degrees ahead of Dione, while Polydeuces orbits Saturn 60 degrees behind Dione. More than this, Saturn's moon Dione is in resonance with Mimas and Enceladus. These are moons of Saturn near Dione. Mimas and Enceladus speed up slightly as they approach each other and slow down as they draw away. This causes a slight variation of their orbits in a long series of complex changes. This pheuneon make them keep themselves locked in their positions. Even more, Dione keeps Enceladus locked at a period exactly one half of the Dione orbit.
The wisps on Dione are caused, probably, by successive cracking. They are as bright as canyon ice wall and they can be several hundred meters high! They are bright because when the darker material falls off it exposes the bright water ice. Dione's fracture cliffs suggest tectonic activity in the past of this wonderful moon. These cliffs could actualy be a mature phase of the so-called tiger stripes on Enceladus. A very fine ice powder that came from Enceladus to the E-Ring of Saturn constantly bombards our mysterious moon.
Dione's density of liquid water is 1.48, suggesting that about a third of Dione is a dense core and the rest is ice which behaves like rock. If there really exists water on Dione, where did it come from? How did it develop? Were there ever forms of life on Dione?
Maybe Cassini had knower more about Dione, but he destroyed his knowledge just like Newton. These are all just question marks that we want to answer to. Dione is an interesting moon with many "probably"-s which has to become "true" or "false". Dione is the goddess of mysteries and we believe that she is ready to show her real face. All we have to do is study her!
10 - 12 years old - Iapetus
When, in 1671, the director of the Paris Observatory, using an improved telescope, saw Iapetus for the first time, Saturn was no longer the Galileo’s „planet with ears”. The astronomer Christiaan Huygens had already solved the mystery in 1659 when he realized that the „ears” of Saturn were really a system of rings. Iapetus was mysterious from the beginning. The astronomer was able to see it only on the western side of the Saturn. It wasn’t until 1705 that Giovanni Cassini finally sawed Iapetus on the eastern side of the great planet using a better telescope because the moon appeared much dimmer on that side. He correctly assumed that Iapetus has a much darker side than the other.
310 years later, the Voyager 2 spacecraft was able to show Iapetus from a closer perspective. It showed that the two contrasting sides make it appear like a Yin/Yang symbol. The leading hemisphere and sides are darker and the trailing hemisphere and poles are almost as bright as the icy world of Europe. With a density of 1.083 grams per cm3 it was clear that the bright regions are made of water ice. But Voyager’s missions let the mystery of the dark material still unsolved. Scientists suggested that it is made of debris from the Saturn’s largest ring, which orbits in the opposite direction of Iapetus. This would explain why the darker Cassini Region is located on the „front” leading side of the moon.
In 2007, the Cassini spacecraft flew even closer to Iapetus (1700 km). The better images showed that Iapetus is indeed receiving reddish dust during its orbit around Saturn. The slow orbital speed around Saturn (79 days) is exposing the dark regions to the sun for long periods of time. The dark material absorbs much more sunlight than the light areas, which reflect sunlight. This causes the ice under and near the dark material to evaporate and redeposit on the bright side making the dark areas even darker and bright areas even brighter.
Cassini mission also added more mystery to the already mysterious world of Iapetus. Its shape is not spherical, but walnut like, which suggests that long time ago Iapetus was spinning very fast. In the middle of the Cassini Region, along the equator, there is a mountain ridge about 1300km long. Peaks are rising more than 20km above the plains, making them some of the tallest mountains in the entire Solar System.
After almost 340 years form its discovery, Iapetus continues to refuse to reveal all its secrets. There are still many things to be explained. Why it has this strange shape? Why its orbit is inclined to Saturn’s ring plane? How were the mountains formed? Why are they located in the middle of the Cassini Region?
The beautiful story of discovering and explaining Iapetus and the mysteries that are still waiting to be solved make this target the right choice for further exploration and might help us uncover truths generally applicable to the entire Universe.
10 - 12 years old - Saturn
Author: Ioana Adriana Răducanu
One day during the classes of physics I learned about the Cassini spacecraft and its mission and I wanted to explore this amazing world of Saturn. I have recently found out that it rains with diamonds on Saturn, very suitable for a planet with rings and this information has convinced me that the planet is particularly interesting and worth the effort of a study. I started the study with images and data transmitted from the Cassini spacecraft than I imagined that I was a part of that mission's team and this is what I came out with.
I found out that Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second largest in the Solar System after Jupiter. It is named after the Roman God, Saturn, Jupiter's father. The temperature on its surface is very low but Saturn has a hot core that radiating more energy than it receives from the Sun. The heat radiated could be captured and could save any "inhabitants" from energy lacks.
Saturn is considered to be a gas giant. So how would we express "standing"? Saturn’s atmosphere is usually calm, though I would like to clear the mystery of the vortices that form that perfect hexagon at the North Pole. Maybe a certain form of life builds them. But nothing compares to the hail on the Saturn! Grains of ice from Earth, on Saturn seem like diamonds. Here is what I think it happens: when lightning into the containing methane atmosphere soot (coal, so carbon) is formed and as it falls, because of the increasing pressure, it turns into diamonds...only they have to be caught until reaching the hot core that would melt them. Could Cassini capture a diamond rain and if Sun would rise how the rainbow would be on Saturn?
I wish Cassini spacecraft discovered microscopic forms of life. I suppose if it entered into the atmosphere of Saturn would be drawn by the immense gravity and would land. Even if they’d take some samples, probably would not be able to return with them to Earth.
I’m thinking that somewhere in Saturn's atmosphere temperatures and its composition make life possible, because in our country (Romania), extremofile have been discovered and they can live deep into the Earth feeding themselves with sulphur and living in very hostile conditions, I have also found out that recently discovered bacteria t feed with the plastic from thrown bottles into the major oceans of our planet. I wonder if on Saturn could be microorganisms that can live in the harsh conditions of the planet's surface.
I have my expectations from the Cassini mission and maybe we will discover that the planet has many hidden secrets until now and it doesn't show all that it can.
Now I realized that the teamwork of the researchers is extremely interesting, and everything is a story with an unexpecting end.
13 - 15 years old - Dione
Author: Bogdan Marghescu
Saturn, the sixth planet from the Sun, is fascinating, just like all the planets in the Universe, but, in addition it has the grandeur of its satellites. The diversity of Saturn's satellites is amazing, as they have diverse particularities, which have been examined by the Cassini mission since the year 2004. Each of these satellites tells a different story of the Saturn planet, Dione being one of these satellites. The particles in Saturn’s rings hit this satellite continuously, so that its surface is full of craters. The pattern of these craters shows that the satellite has rotated to 180 degrees. The reason of this mysterious shift is one of the most interesting objectives which, in my opinion, should be studied by the Cassini mission.
Dione, Saturn's twelfth satellite, is made up mainly of frozen water, being streaked by a labyrinth of cracks which proves a tectonically active past and is covered by rocks of shining ice. These volcanic formations erupt ammonia or methane, unlike the volcanoes on the Earth, which erupt melted rock. So, Dione, which is considered a huge "ice ball", is much more dynamic than the specialists used to think.
Furthermore, the images taken by the Cassini spacecraft illustrate the existence of a viscous, almost muddy liquid, found below the ice crust, which I would study more thoroughly if I were a scientist for a day. This would be possible if, on a future mission, we would send a spaceship to analyze this liquid in order to look for the cornerstone of life, beyond the Earth. In my opinion, this liquid was originally a form of water covered by an ice pellicle which thickened in time, turning into shining ice rocks.
Scientists have been wondering why half of Dione has more craters than its other half and why the satellite has got stuck on the orbit. I believe that, first of all, we should try to understand why Dione satellite always shows the same face to Saturn. This gravity lock leads to the fact that one of Dione's sides is hit by the particles in Saturn's rings more than the other side. Dione should have had a greater number of craters on the side facing the orbit, but, strangely, Dione's front hemisphere is less impacted than its back hemisphere, a fact which raised my curiosity. If I were a scientist of the Cassini mission, I would like to examine this more closely. One possible explanation is that some impacts were so strong that they made Dione rotate a little, until it became gravitationally locked again. The current condition of Dione's surface shows that it hasn't changed its position on the orbit for several billion years.
In conclusion, all these questions are wonderful reasons for which Cassini spacecraft should choose target 2. With the help of this study, we would obtain more information regarding the formation of the stars and planets of our solar system.
13 - 15 years old - Iapetus
Author: Irina Coraga
The Yin-Yang Moon
Humanity's wish was and will always be to conquer. The limits have changed: from countries to continents, from continents to the entire world, and now, from the world to space, the Universe and the Solar System. And, by exploring what further than we knew we could, and we re-discover ourselves. Existing as a human being is only proved by the things we did in life, the things we discovered, by how much the world has changed after our death. And that's exactly what NASA scientists do: changing and improving. The mission Cassini is named after the French astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini. This man was the first to discover Iapetus. So, I can say that the discovery of Iapetus was a starting point for the entire mission.
After years of exploring, Cassini has to concentrate on one target: Saturn, Iapetus or Dione. I have chosen Iapetus because of his interesting appearance. This Saturn's moon is half white and half black. Even scientist cannot explain why, and probably more research would help them.
Iapetus has a shape of a walnut, different from most of the moons. It is always facing Saturn with the same side, and makes a full rotation in 79 days.
Another mystery is the equatorial ridge. This mountain system is believed to be ancient because of his craters. The peeks rise over 20 km, which is higher that Mountain Everest and higher than the majority of mountains we know about in the entire Solar System.
We know little even about our planet, and instead of trying to understand completely a planet or a moon's formation, and missing a lot of other things about the entire Solar System, we should try to know a little bit about every planet, and have an overview of everything that surrounds us. After that, scientists might even discover things that would change everything, or things that would support our present theories.
Iapetus is one of the most interesting moons we know so far, even though we know little about it. Another reason that supports my choice is the amount of things we know about our Moon, and the amount of things that we might discover about our Moon after the Cassini mission about Iapetus.
Saturn's rings offer the best view on Iapetus, and I think that this is not the only beautiful thing about Iapetus. Some people often call it the Yin-Yang of the Solar System because of its colors.
I think that Iapetus is the best choice, it is beneficial to discover things you don't know, and do not prove facts just to make yourself an image or a reputation. Do something that will make people talk about. Do something that nobody has done before. And, the most important, the thing you consider less important will produce more surprises than the one you thought was more interesting, because, that's just the way things work in the Universe.
13 - 15 years old - Saturn
If you were to ask an amateur or a professional astronomer why is he is excited about the space, this would be your answer: "Because I saw Saturn through a telescope for the first time!"
The most important question when studying the planets is: "Can life be maintained here?" or "Is there a danger that this planet might pose to space or planet Earth?"
Saturn is one of the eight planets of the solar system, specifically the sixth planet, as distance from the sun. It is, however, the second largest after Jupiter, with a diameter of nearly nine times bigger than Earth's one. Due to its composition (hydrogen and helium), life on Saturn cannot be maintained or developed. Recently, however, it was discovered that one of the moons of Saturn, Dione is not a completely frozen body as it was thought initially; on the contrary, it seems that it shows volcanic activity. Not long before this discovery, the scientists claimed that oxygen was detected around Dione. If Dione would be so hot areas where ice could be melted, then this can only be an amazing discovery that will bring a new level of scientific progress.
Saturn has in its possession a system of rings composed mainly of particles of dust and ice. It is the first planet whose mass volume is lower water's. In my opinion, this means that if someone placed Saturn in an ocean, it would definitely float.
Additionally, U.S.A. researchers have concluded that the surface of Saturn it rains diamonds, which then turn into an ocean of liquid diamonds because of the temperatures at the ground level.
All these findings make me think that in a context like ours, the one of scarcity of resources, could we someday use the resources that these planets host and are not being used? Because there is no life on this planet according to our information and humanity might need them more than ever to survive and perpetuate.
16 - 18 years old - Dione
Ioan Ștefan Buțiu
Observations made by the Cassini orbiter on three separate flybys of Dione, Saturn's fourth largest moon, might make this icy satellite a new point of interest in our Solar System. The questions raised by the probe's data merit further investigation and make Dione a prime candidate for more detailed exploration.
One intriguing aspect of Dione is its geology. We know that about a third of it is comprised of a rocky core and that it has an icy crust, but what about the rest? The Cassini's observations offer evidence of a subsurface ocean. For example, the probe detected a faint stream of particles emanating from Dione, similar to those spewing from Enceladus. This, along with the network of icy cliffs located on Dione's trailing hemisphere, which are akin to the "tiger stripes" of Enceladus, indicates tectonic activity which would have necessitated a liquid interior. Furthermore, the peculiar topography of Janiculum Dorsa, an 800-kilometer-long mountain apparently formed in a crease in Dione's surface suggests that the crust was once warm. The most likely way this was achieved was through the presence of a subsurface ocean which would magnify the effect of tidal heating caused by Saturn's gravitational pull by as much as ten times. These clues support the enticing possibility of liquid water under Dione's surface, which would increase its astrobiological potential, and definitely warrants further observation.
A second argument for selecting Dione is to determine the geological processes that created its distinctive surface. Dione differs from other moons through the fact that its trailing hemisphere is more heavily cratered than its leading one, whereas the inverse is true for most satellites. Due to its relatively small size, an impact causing a 35 kilometer crater would have been sufficient to spin the moon. Since we can observe many craters larger than that, it's probable that it was spun repeatedly. Could this have anything to do with the decline in geological activity that we can deduce happened at some point in Dione's history? Perhaps these impacts affected Dione's orbit and determined a reduction in tidal heating. And how come the moon seems to have spun exactly 180 degrees? In addition, Dione's trailing hemisphere also displays a remarkable network of ice cliffs, some of them hundreds of meters high, formed by enormous tectonic fractures. Are they remnants of a bygone era of geological exertion, or do they continue to evolve at a slower pace? Answers to questions such as these may provide valuable insights into the inner workings of icy moons similar to Dione, the places most likely to support life in our Solar System.
To conclude, the details unearthed by the Cassini probe regarding Dione have raised questions about this once boring moon whose answers may prove invaluable. Through careful examination of Dione, we stand to gain much in the way of understanding the history of our Solar System, the intricate interactions of celestial bodies, and the the possibilities of life on the icy moons of our Solar System.
16 - 18 years old - Iapetus
Author: Cristiana Tişcă
One may indeed wonder: Why choose Iapetus, when you can go for Saturn, whose unravelled secrets would most likely prove themselves to be of greater importance and be appreciated by a broader public? To be honest, I find myself a firm believer that the truth lies in the details. Therefore, I think that by investigating one of the most important of Saturn satellites, we will be able to gain a greater insight into the planet's mysteries, as well as explain some of the phenomena that scientists have come across whilst exploring Iapetus. Amongst these I would name the 'two-tone' coloration of the satellite, the equatorial ridge and Iapetus' shape, which could - indeed should - be better explained by means of the images provided by the Cassini spacecraft.
To begin with, it is my firm belief that a close-up of this important satellite would get scientists one step closer to explaining the striking difference in colouring between the two iapetian hemispheres. This mind-boggling aspect has been troubling researchers for almost 400 years - which have passed since Giovanni Cassini discovered the eighth moon of Saturn. Although a few hypotheses concerning this interesting feature have been drawn - the colour dichotomy could be explained as an effect of the sublimation of water ice on the surface of Iapetus or as one of a collision between Iapetus and another celestial body - a firm explanation did not reach the surface.
Furthermore, one shall discuss the mystery of the equatorial ridge, which surrounds Iapetus and was discovered almost a decade ago. How could the formation of these ancient mountains, regarded as some of the tallest in the Solar System, be explained? Assumptions have, indeed, been formulated, amongst which we can name the decrease in the rotational period of the satellite or the possible existence of a ring system that Iapetus could have had during its formation. To my mind, the photos taken by the Cassini spacecraft should provide a solid fundament for one of these or contain clues of another one. I would, however, incline towards the first explanation, which also suggests a core link between Iapetus' and Saturn's formation, as well as the Solar System: it is possible that Iapetus has come together earlier than expected, only two million years after asteroids started to form.
To conclude, one can definitely state that Iapetus is worth exploring. By doing this, researchers will most likely find the answers they are looking for, as well as be able to relate these fundamental answers to the celestial body Iapetus is orbiting around, Saturn. The ancient greeks regarded the titan Iapetus as the father of the human race. It is my firm belief that the satellite Iapetus will rise to that name.
16 - 18 years old - Saturn
Corina Georgiana Zamfir
Elena Corina Enache
Being one of the planets most difficult to study, because of its poor lighting, Saturn represents one of the unknown mysteries of the Solar System. From our point of view, but also from the perspective of finding new things about Saturn, its rings are those that give the planet glow and make it really mysterious.
Over time, scientists have tried to discover how those fabulous rings were formed, concluding that they are actually the result of a cosmic cataclysm, Mirel Bârlan, from Astronomical Observatory of Paris, saying that: "the ring is a remnant of primordial cloud of dust and gas that formed the planet Saturn."
Regarding the new findings, a recent study gives us the opportunity to observe the evolution of those spectacular rings. The study was realized by the team of researchers led by James O'Donoghue from University of Leicester, UK, and published in the journal, "Nature "on April 10. Observations have shown the existence of some dark bands in parallel with the equator of Saturn. Then, the following calculations, showed that there is a correlation between these bands and Saturn’s rings. According to the results, solar radiation ionizes water molecules present in the planet's rings, then are transported along magnetic field lines to Saturn's upper atmosphere . Different said, the rings of Saturn produce rain on the planet, but we are not speaking about heavy rain. Estimates show that from rings of Saturn, the amount of water that reaches the upper atmosphere in a day , is equivalent to one containd up to ten Olympic swimming pools.
On the other side, the particles that make up Saturn's rings date back over 3 billion years ago , being older than Solar Sistem. This makes us think that they also might stand forever or at least for an unlimited period of time. These data do nothing else than arouse more interest in knowledge, discerning the mysteries being the most spectacular part.
Certainly, the number of the rings is another thing that keeps our attention rapt. In the last few years , were discovered two rings which helped discerning the mystery regarding the composition and their movement on the orbit. Apparently, there are some solid formations, but basically represent expanses of ice and rock particles attracted to the magnetic center of the planet.
In conclusion, we think that a photograph taken in Saturn's rings nearby could provide additional informations on them that would mark both astronomical and scientific area .Science is the art which underline knowledge.