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International Edition Winners - 2013: Pakistan, Target 3, Grade 11-12

International Edition Winners - 2013: Pakistan, Target 3, Grade 11-12

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Target 3, Saturn
Syed Mohammad Ali

School: Army Public School & College for Boys, Range Road
Grade: 12
City: Rawalpindi

"All the targets for Cassini have there own scientific merits, but I think the most suitable target for it would be Saturn.

Saturn is the sixth planet in the solar system, and is undoubtedly the most beautiful one. Being one of the five planets to be visible to the naked eye, it's been amazing us ever since we gazed into the sky. It grabbed the attention of many ancient civilizations like Greeks, Babylonians and Romans and still manages to make us scratch our heads over its many mysteries.

Scientist have had a hard time calculating the exact time-span of a day on Saturn. For one it doesn't have any solid surface or permanent physical features to keep track of rotation, and second even the magnetic field of the planet exhibits variation as shown by the studies of Voyager 2 and Cassini. We may be able to unlock the answer to this riddle if Cassini studies the 3rd target.

Saturn is a gas giant which means it is mostly composed of gases like Hydrogen and Helium, the very same elements which serve as the building blocks of many stars, for instance our own sun. However unlike stars, they don't have enough temperature or pressure in the core to start the fusion process. This is why gas giants the likes of Jupiter and Saturn are also termed as "failed stars". If we study Saturn further, not only can we understand the star and planet formation better but it can also tell us about what sort of transition such humungous celestial bodies go through to become a star.

Another reason to study Saturn is to confirm the exact origin of the picturesque rings surrounding the planet. They might be as old as the planet itself, or perhaps came into being later on from the debris created by the impacts of comets and asteroids on moon.

Saturn has an extremely violent atmosphere, with winds soaring at speeds of up to 1100 mph, the second fastest in the solar system. The planet radiates about twice as much energy as it receives from sun. This is what powers all the weather systems and storms, which can last for quite some time. Speaking of storms, there's also peculiarity attributed to them. The one at the south pole was very analogous to those on Earth since it had a clearly defined eye-wall, while another one at north is shaped like a hexagon. This uncanny storm can fit about 4 Earths inside of it. By studying these conditions, we can greatly improve our understanding of all the gas giants in our solar system. In fact, this information would also be very helpful in determining the properties of the exo-planets since they're usually gas giants as well.

I think these facts are all the more reason why Cassini should dedicate it's attention to studying Saturn. Besides, who doesn't want a poster of such a nice planet hanging on the room wall!"