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10-12 years old: Ice plumes at the south pole of Enceladus

 Author: Javier Morales Palomo

Although life arose on Earth, or so they say, the first molecules that formed the organisms may not have originated here.

The documentary presented the theory of panspermia (synonymous of global or total origin). Arrhenius said that volcanic eruptions can place all kinds of molecules of life and even bacteria in layers of the atmosphere. From here, the solar wind (emissions from the sun formed mainly by electrons and protons) can transport them to other celestial bodies. He estimated that even Alpha Centauri (the solar system closest to ours) would take about 7000 years.

When we look at Enceladus, with  the ice cover under which the hydrogen compounds abound, we think: all these molecules can form living beings! The first thing one imagines is that studying Enceladus can allow us to understand how life was formed. But what if Arrhenius was right? What if the first molecules came to Earth from Enceladus or other similar satellites or planets?

Gaseous geysers were able to transport molecules from their interior to the space from where they could reach the Earth driven by the stellar wind coming from some star or comet.

What if the study of Enceladus discovers the existence of bacteria? Could they have reached Earth? Could they have reached other planets? What if we could find a cure for diseases caused by new pathogenic bacteria or even not yet found on Earth? Does life really scatter through space? Is the theory of panspermia true?

Maybe this explains the origin of some of the new bacteria or viruses that we are discovering and that affect our organism: before they did not exist on Earth, but after their stellar journey they multiplied.

But what if Earth was one of the origins of life in the galaxy? Perhaps gases from Earth came to Enceladus, Titan, Mars or other satellites or planets currently studied and influenced the composition of their atmosphere ... or their life. It's a mystery!

Therefore, studying Enceladus, its composition and the mechanisms by which the geysers are produced, may allow us to understand the processes by which life makes its way in the Cosmos.


10-12 years old: The lakes of Titan

Authors: Adrián González Rodríguez, Alberto Parras Martínez 

The Titan Lakes: it could be the first example in the entire solar system where liquid deposits on the surface and riverlike structures on our planet Earth are found. Also because it is the only moon of the Solar System that has a dense atmosphere, and the nitrogen and methane in its atmosphere has a chemical composition similar to the one of the Earth before the appearance of the life.

NASA discovered that hydrocarbon deposits have been found that resemble terrestrial lakes. This makes Titan the only body in the solar system, apart from Earth, which contains lakes on its surface. Also regions that are almost equal to those of the Earth have been detected. However, due to their extremely low temperatures, NASA scientists rule out the possibility that these lakes are water, liquid or frozen. They think that the liquid in those lakes is methane or ethane.

This has carried out scientists to propose that the Titan landscape is created by methane, a hydrocarbon that has a cycle equivalent to that of water on Earth, through the existence of energetic storms composed of methane vapor. These periodic torrential methane rains explain the presence of bright polar clouds and the formation of the dry channels seen by the Cassini- Huygens mission. In these storms would be dense clouds of methane and water droplets would form that can collect on the surface between 100 and 200 liters per square meter, something comparable to torrential rain on Earth. That methane precipitated violently against the surface would generate deposits and rivers of liquid methane able to model the landscape and to run as liquid through the channels until its evaporation. But weather patterns on Titan are altered much more slowly than on Earth, and it takes 29 Earth years for the atmosphere to respond to seasonal changes. These occasional heavy downpours would not explain the moist mud of hydrocarbon on which Huygens landed. To explain this muddy surface, other scientists point to Titan receiving constant, fine rain. These experts believe that that persistent drizzle, which would keep Titan's surface moist, would be formed from small ice crystals that come off the high clouds.

At present, the best telescopes observe Titan regularly, monitoring its meteorological activity, in an important international effort that shows us the similarities and enormous differences between the atmospheres of that moon and the Earth. The study of Earth's atmosphere is very complicated and would help solve many unknown problems by analyzing Titan's atmosphere. So, Titan, is a natural laboratory that tests the knowledge we have about the physical equations that govern the behavior of the atmosphere.

10-12 years old: The hexagon at Saturn's north pole

 Authors: María Piñar Pérez, David Martínez Moreno

We have chosen object 3, the hexagon in the north pole of Saturn, because we believe that it is still not much investigated and its exact origin is not known. This polygon is a stream of persistent gas, guided by a standing wave that forms the hexagon, which does not move longitudinally. This phenomenon was sighted by the Voyager spacecraft between 1981 and 1982, and confirmed by the Cassini spacecraft in 2006. When it was discovered it was already formed, what is not known if it is a perennial phenomenon or is ephemeral, and in the latter case what is its date of origin. One possible theory says that it is formed because there is a latitudinal gradient, that is, a large variation of the wind in this area that covers 40800 km of diameter approximately, this distance is greater than the diameter of the Earth of 12756 km. It is located in the north pole of the planet, however the south pole lacks of an hexagon or any other similar polygon, but it has a vortex. The hexagon does not travel longitudinally in parallel to the equator, instead it is rotating in the pole counterclockwise. The complete rotation lasts 10 hours 39 minutes and 24 seconds. We believe that this phenomenon should be investigated since questions such as why this phenomenon does not occur in other areas such as the south pole of the planet or the poles of Jupiter are not solved. Possibly the hexagon is inscribed in a circumference parallel to the equator, which would be like the limit of the circular water tank in the experiment of the University of Oxford, in which they studied a liquid with different speed of rotation in the center and the periphery. The result of this experiment was the creation of polygonal shapes of which the most common is the hexagon. From this experiment was created the theory that it is formed from a latitudinal gradient, since according to this the hexagon should rotate at different speed in the center than in the periphery, and so it seems that it does.

In the hexagon, a spiral in the anti-clockwise direction can be seen, besides that in the interior small particles abound and large particles scarce, unlike the outside where the opposite happens. Another theory is that the bright clouds that form the spiral are the remains of a compact cloud discarded by the speed at the center of the vortex.

We believe that the Casinni probe and later probes should investigate the hexagon to confirm or discard current theories about its origin, shape, inner and outer density difference or the spiral it contains.

We believe that we will be able to investigate and facilitate the total unveiling of this mystery which is the hexagon of Saturn.

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

 Author: Ángel Gómez Acosta

It has been one of the most important discoveries in the Sky Science. The matter is that on Enceladus, one of the moons of Saturn, there is a great ocean of liquid water. This fact is very important because the water is in the liquid state, it shows us that life can be possible not only in our planet Earth. Actually, we would have never thought that it is possible to find life in a small moon which is a thousand four hundred million kilometres away from our mother star.

Enceladus is a small moon with a diametre of no more than five hundred kilometres, that is located in the system of Saturn. Scientists did not give it much importance, until the space probe Cassini discovered big geysers that launched all the frozen water into space. It was a great news that revolutionized the world of astronomy.

It turned out to be a mystery why Enceladu's Ocean was not frozen. The reason why the water keeps the liquid state is the action caused by the gravitational tides of Saturn that heat Enceladus. That warming is the responsible of the liquid state of water.

Firstly, the mass of water is thought to occupyed only the South polo of Enceladus. However, research made during years thanks to the news taken by the space probe Cassini have revealed us the globality of the ocean. That is to say, it is present under all the surface. Specifically, they studied images taken by the space probe over a period of seven years. With this information,   maps of the moon could be made, in which their geological features are placed. They measured all its rotation changes with much precision. Thanks to this information, a swing was detected on Enceladus when it moves around Saturn. As this moon is not a perfect sphere and the speed of the orbit is not always the same, Saturn pushes it at the same time it rotes, and so it is thought that swing is produced by a mass of global water.

Personally, this is one of the themes that gives me most pleasure about the universe. I love the idea that some types of different life from ours can exist in our own Solar System. It's possible that a lot of people think about complex beings when they hear about “alien life”. Never the less, it is not a matter if they are complex being or bacteria, because the simple incident of finding life beyond Earth is something extraordinary, regardless the discovery. Sometimes, when I think about the mysteries that the universe hides, I can not stop wondering how life beyond Earth will be. For this reason, Enceladus is also one of the most mysterious moons in our Solar System. I hope that life in the universe can be found soon, because that can confirm, once and for all, that we are not alone in this immense universe which is still waiting for us to discover all its secrets.

13-15 years old: The lakes of Titan

 Authors: Paula Morales Palomo, Rocío Martínez-Lage

Sitting on the bank of the river, Gaia glanced at the sun shining in the distance. Earth, the planet from which their ancestors came, was in that direction millions of miles away.

1050 years before a probe, the Cassini-Huygens, launched in 1997 by a group of terrestrial countries explored Saturn and several of its satellites, among them Titan. It seems that the proposal of a group of young people influenced the decision of ESA and NASA to study Titan.

The detailed study of its atmosphere, of the lakes and seas of methane and of its surface facilitated to know this moon. And finally the confirmation of the presence of water in the subsoil!

The high concentration of N2, CO2, CH4, H2O, NH3 and other carbon and hydrogen compounds allowed, despite the faint luminosity on their surface, to establish greenhouses with plants that used CO2 for photosynthesis, while generating O2. This was the beginning of the International Permanent Station that allowed us to explore the Universe and our own Solar System like never before. The discoveries that were made, changed the way of thinking of Earthlings, and a new understanding arose among us.

The microbial life that discovered the Cassini-Huygens probe, with cell membranes formed by nitrogen compounds and a metabolism that operated at very low temperatures, explained why the amount of methane remained constant even though the sun's ultraviolet light disintegrates Gas in the upper layers of the atmosphere, while hydrogen disappears mysteriously from its surface.

A situation quite similar to that which occurs on Earth, where the abnormal concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere is maintained thanks to the contribution of photosynthetic organisms.

Gaia read in her device a fragment of that writing that the young earthlings presented to the contest in 2017: "First were the Moon and Mars, then the International Space Station, then may be the permanent space stations in the satellite and the red planet. And later, why not, Titan. In spite of the dense atmosphere of Titan, the situation of a permanent scientific center on the moon of Saturn would allow to study the space outside the Solar System, something that had not been tried until now. The presence of certain compounds would make the development of human life easier there."

And all because Cassini-Huygens investigated Titan 1050 years ago.

The titanid autumn, so to speak, was coming and Gaia returned to the Station. And as he looked at the sky, he murmured: "methane is raining again”

13-15 years old: The hexagon at Saturn's north pole

 Author: Julia Cepedello Cuerva

I have decided to choose the Saturn´s Hexagon for different reasons. There is nothing like that hexagon in any other known world.
Saturn´s nothern hexagon is a cloud band circling Saturn´s pole, first observed in 1980. This pattern has persisted for more than a Saturn year.
This structure has some key characteristics: the hexagon is associated with an eastward zonal jet moving at more than 200 mph and the hexagon rotates at roughly the same rate at Saturn´s several rotation. While it can be observed individual storms and cloud patterns at different speeds within the hexagon. There is a massive hurricane tightly centered on the north pole, with an eye about 50 times larger than the average hurricane eye on Earth (A hurricane on Earth typically lasts a week, but this has been here for decades, and who knows, maybe centuries).

In 2015, some scientists created a model that explain what we see. This model (baroclinic model) is likely, but there is a lot of details that are not explained. Somebody thinks that when we will know Saturn´s atmosphere vertical structure, we will understand the hexagon.

In November 2016 Cassini encountered Titan, reducing its closest aproach to 158,000 km. This provided a 24 hour period for clear, sunlit viewing of the north polar region. Besides, in April 2017, it will be a final Titan pass sending the Cassini orbiter less than 3,000 km over the saturnian clouds.It will obtain the highest resolution images of Saturn ever obtained. So the scientists will have a chance to study it clearly.

The discovery will reveal the reflection of light in relation to its materials and their movements with each other. It could be used to reveal quantitative information on the haze and clouds particles altitude, density, radius, composition...

Moreover, this could provide valuable information for calculating the likelihood of this happening on other planet.

We will also know more information about how we can control hurricanes in Earth.

16-18 years old: Ice plumes at the south pole of Enceladus

 Author: Elena Peralta Rodán

SELECTED OBJECTIVE: Ice feathers in the south pole of Enceladus.

OBJECTIVE OF THE INVESTIGATION: To know the composition of the ocean found under the surface of Enceladus to analyze the possibility of existence of life in a satellite of our solar system.

REASONS: Water  is a basic component of life. Therefore it is fundamental to study in depth the possibilities offered by a liquid medium in another satellite of our solar system so that it fulfills the necessary conditions for the existence of life.

DATA OR EVIDENCE: The Cassini-Huygens probe has detected:

1. The existence of a large global ocean of liquid water between the ice surface of the satellite and the rocky inner core.
2. About 100 geysers ejecting jets of steam from salt water, organic compounds and ice particles from the underground ocean.
3. Part of the emitted water vapor falls back to the surface in the form of ice and the rest escapes into space and supplies most of the material forming the E ring of Saturn.
4. Some geological activity, which offers great resemblance to terrestrial plate tectonics. The so- called "tiger stripes" are similar to the submarine terrestrial ridges, that is to say, the ocean ridges, through which material comes out of the interior and forms a new crust. The geological activity seems to occur periodically, when hot ice from the interior of Enceladus rises to the surface breaking the crust
5. Possible hydrothermal vents along the rocky surface at the bottom of the ocean. Such sources could harbor life thanks to the existence of water and temperature.


A visitor probe like Cassini, if it had the necessary instruments, would not have to land to search for life, but it would suffice to fly through the geysers to collect samples and analyze them.

1. The system is based on a process called "bubble wrap", which consists of collecting samples of the bubbles that rise through the water when they explode by expelling the possible microbes contained in the spray.
2. It is a method that allows to collect many samples and that is cheaper and faster than sending a probe that will land on the frozen surface.
3. The only problem to be solved is to find the way of collecting samples of water jets that rise at high speed without breaking the microorganisms that they may contain.
4. New techniques are being studied to photograph microbes in a reliable way because with this capture system it is difficult to differentiate a cell from any other particle.
5. The most important molecules to look for are amino acids, the basic components of proteins, which are present in kites and meteorites.


The  relative  proximity  of  Enceladus  would  allow  to  send  successive  probes  to  study  it,  with  an increasingly advanced technology, whose cost would not be as high as that of other space proposals.

16-18 years old: The lakes of Titan

Author: Carlos Navarro

Dear director of the ESA:

At the end of the month of april, we received the news that the Cassini ́s probe had discovered in Titan, one of Saturn ́s satellites, some seas and lakes that were made up of methane. These satellite ́s got a very similar atmosphere to the Earth ́s one, with 95% of nitrogen, a higher concentration than the Earth ́s one. The only inconvenient is the lack of oxygen in the atmosphere, which leads substancies as the methane or the ethane domine the whole atmosphere.

At first, it may look as an uninhabitable environment to live in, and not very susceptible of being soonly studied by Cassini ́s probe, but the freezing temperaturas that the satellite suffers by its remoteness from the sun, makes the previously mentioned substancies, are in a liquid state.this opens a window of possibilities for the searching of these lakes and seas, mainly located in the north and south poles. They cover the 2% of the surface of the planet. That ́s  why we think that Cassini ́s probe should dedicate to the studies of Titan ́s seas.

One of the pillars in which this idea is hold, is finding any evidence of exxtraterrestrial life. It  has been the spark that has maintaned the flame of the interest in regard of the spacial explorations. Finding a partner thousands of years light away, showing up that we ́re not alone in the universo. Although we should be cautious when we show up our location to an entire galaxy.

We also have to take into account that our planet is getting worst day by day, and it would be good finding another place to live and continue the existance of the human being, on an emergency case.

The next reason would be discovering how was life in our planet was formed. The most accepted theory about this is nowadays, is the Aleksandr Oparin ́s one. His theory was based in the belief that when the Earth was starteing to form, temperatures dropped until the water vapour was turned into wáter. This created an environment called primitive soup. Inside it, large chains of amino acids started to join and the first living being was formed, an unicelular being.

If the fewest life glimpse was found, Oparin theory would be confirmed, and we would have a fewest opaque conception about the Earth ́s life genesis. At the momento, the prowe hasn ́t got a path to follow in some time, and i think it would be an excellent idea to taking advantage of it ́s last life years.

I hope this proposal might be usefull for the scientific comunity, if you decide to use it.

With my best regards.

16-18 years old: The hexagon at Saturn's north pole

 Authors: Raquel Juárez Martos, Miriam Martínez Pricopi, María López Gómez

They asked the mountain-climber George Leigh Mallory (1886-1924) what reason he had to risk his life climbing mountains. His answer remained for posterity. "I climb mountains because they are there".

The same happens with the hexagon of the north pole of Saturn. We study it because "it’s there". Its existence captivates us.

After the first images taken by the probe Voyager 2 in 1980 and by the telescope Hubble in 1991, the mission Cassini-Huygens has been sending us information about the polar north vortex delimited by closed currents of cloudy matter with hexagonal form for more than 10 yearsi.

"Climbing this mountain " it isn’t easy. Until now, we don’t know when it was generated nor when the hexagon will be eliminated, unique structure between the polar vortexes of the planets with known atmosphere. Its origin seems to be linked to the latitudinal variation of the speeds of rotation of the gaseous capsii (formed mainly by hydrogen and helium), to the force of Coriolis and to the gradients of pressure and temperatureiii (from the core towards the most external caps of the atmosphere we find differences of the order of 104K). Where there isn’t an agreement in the scientific community is in describing the hexagon as the consequence of stationary wavesiv.

The hexagon is observed at 78° north latitude and doesn’t move longitudinally along the atmosphere. His six sides act as a natural border, generating a superb laboratory where to learn on dynamics of fluids, so important in disciplines as the aeronautics or the atmospheric physics.

Cassini-Huygens has offered information about the radiation in infrared of Saturn, thanks to his systems VIMS and CIRSvi, and has shown, in the visible spectrum, the variation of color of the hexagon according to the station of the planet (going on from bluish tones to golden tonesvii). The central eye of the vortex presents an average diameter of 2.000km and winds that exceed 500km/hviii. The form of the eye and of the hexagon have remained stable, at least, throughout the whole Saturnian year (equivalent to 29,6 Earth years). Therefore, they are phenomena not related to the relative position of the planet with regard to the Sun. His stability contrasts with a few days of average life of the storms in our planet, possibly due to the minor relative action of the gravity of the core of Saturn on his atmosphere.

The polygonal patterns are known in unstable fluids submitted to currents of convection. They even appear in the center of certain hurricanes of our planet. But the dimensions of the hexagon of Saturn, with sides that exceed 13.500km, make it an unique challenge for the science. “The mountain” surprised us every time!

More questions that certainties. The images of the probe Cassini-Huygens are at the service of the science and the society in generalix. The hexagon is waiting for us.


Last Update: 1 September 2019
19-May-2024 20:23 UT

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