Winners - Ireland
10 - 12 years old - Saturn's rings, with three of Saturn's moons: Tethys, Enceladus, and Mimas
The first observation of Saturn through a telescope was made by Galileo in 1610. The Romans named Saturn after the God of agriculture, Chronos. Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun (1,429,400,000km away from the Sun) and the second largest in the solar system after Jupiter. Saturn's radius is about nine times that of Earth. It's a Gas planet because its mainly composed of 75% hydrogen and 25% helium with traces of water. It's ring system consists of nine main rings they are extraordinarily thin, though they're 250,000km or more in diameter they're less than one kilometer thin .The ring particles seem to be composed primarily of water ice, but they may also include rocky particles with icy coatings.
Sixty two moons are known to orbit Saturn. Fifty three of them are officially named. Titan, Saturn's largest moon and the second largest in our solar system, is as big as the planet Mercury.
Tethys was discovered by Cassini in 1684.It is completely composed of water or ice similar to Dione and Rhea. The western hemisphere is dominated by a huge crater called Odysseus, whose 400km diameter is nearly 2/5 of that of Tethys itself! Tethys wasn't always frozen solid, in the past it was probably liquid.
Enceladus was discovered by Herschel in 1789. Its surface is completely dominated by fresh, clean ice. There have been at least five different types of terrain identified on Enceladus. We know that Enceladus has an extremely thin atmosphere along with Rhea, Titian and Dione. So could it be possible that Tethys or Mimas have an atmosphere too.
Mimas was discovered in 1789 by William Herschel. The land area of Mimas is slightly less than the area of Spain. Mimas is home to a giant crater named Herschel (after William Herschel). Herschel's diameter is a third of Mimas itself.
I think that if we did investigate Saturn and all its moons not just Mimas, Enceladus and Tethys we could find something extraordinary. I wouldn't in a million years know what could be found. There could be anything. There could even be Aliens!
13 -15 years old - Distant image of Jupiter
I have chosen target 2 as my chosen target as I believe that this target has the potential for scientists to study Jupiter in a way which it has never been studied before. Jupiter is the largest planet in the Solar System, it is so big that 1,000 earths would fit inside it, even though the planet is so big it only looks or seems like a speck to the naked eye, this is because it seems so far away. As Cassini is orbiting Saturn which is further from Jupiter than Earth , taking pictures from Cassini would be a lot more beneficial to scientists studying “exoplanets” as its images would show how exoplanets with an atmosphere would appear from a billion miles away, which would be very useful to scientists as it would give them an idea of what types of things they should be looking out for.
The last time that Jupiter has been observed from afar was more than 25 years ago by “Voyager 1”. There has been amazing advances in technology in recent years, which means the technology and the instruments aboard Cassini are a lot more advanced and will provide much more accurate information and data about the planet and its appearance, which would be helpful in the study of Jupiter.
Even though Saturn is still far away from Jupiter, taking pictures of the giant planet from Saturn's orbit may be the best way to study Jupiter in different ways for the time being as launching any type spacecraft from Earth to Jupiter would take years, compare this to how long it took for the Cassini spacecraft to reach Saturn from Earth, which took roughly 7 years. Keep in mind that Saturn is roughly 1.2 1.67 billion km away from Earth and even though Jupiter may be closer to us then Saturn is, it would still take years to design, build and launch a spacecraft, let alone the amount of time the craft would take hopefully reaching it’s destination.
By choosing target 2 it would also become clear to scientists what improvements and changes are needed to study planets that are not in our solar system, as observing Jupiter from afar and studying it as if it was an exoplanet, we would be able to see how much of our current technology would be useful in the search for exoplanets beyond our Solar System and what improvements need to be made to make the search easier for the future.
16 - 18 years old - Movie of Saturn's moon, Tethys, passing behind Rhea
Our favourite target and the target which we think is the best target is target 3. When reading through the possible targets we found that this target was the best as it will enable us to learn more about space and space exploration. We know that Rhea is the second largest of the moons of Saturn and it is a small, cold, and heavily cratered world that consists of three quarters water ice and one quarter rock. Cassini images have previously shown that the wispy lines covering the moon are subsidence fractures that make deep canyons. But aren’t you interested to see what we have yet to discover about Rhea?
By sending Cassini to record a short movie of Saturn’s moon, Tethys, passing behind Rhea we will be able to see an occulation. These are very special occurrences where Rhea will pass in front of Tethys, hiding it from view. This will change the world of science as we will now have a very accurate way to assess the orbits of these moons, which change slowly over time. This will benefit our knowledge of space and space exploration greatly as we are still currently unsure of what the interior of Rhea looks like. Some research says it has a rock core, but other data indicates it is the same throughout. We cannot possibly confirm these facts until we have proof. This proof may then be able to help us discover more information about Rhea and other moons. By proving these theories we can attract the public to become more interested in space and space exploration. This much needed awareness and interest could give us a chance to generate more funding for space exploration. With all this funding we could even get a chance to explore more planets, their moons and their interiors. This vital information would have the most long term benefits for our society and space exploration in comparison to the other two possible targets.
Target one hopes to find how old Saturns rings are. While this is obviously very important information to discover, I think it is more of a priority to find out more information about the interiors of Saturn’s moons before we begin our investigation on Saturn’s rings. Target one hopes to find ‘how complex and beautiful the Saturnian system really is’ which I feel we will be better able to do by investigating the moons.
Target two suggests that we study Jupiter from sending Cassini to Saturn. We understand that we are trying to find out as much as possible about our solar system, however I think if we are sending Cassini to Saturn we should use the opportunity to focus on Saturn. By discovering more about Rhea and Tethys we will gain public interest, therefore gaining funds for space exploration. In the future, we could then consider investigating Jupiter.
In conclusion, we think the best decision would be to send Cassini to investigate the interior of Saturn’s moons, generating the most long term benefit for space exploration.