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International Edition Winners - 2013: Romania, Target 1, Grade 9-12

International Edition Winners - 2013: Romania, Target 1, Grade 9-12

Target 1, Iapetus
Tişcâ Cristiana

Grade: 9-12

Teacher: Carmen Tânâsescu

School: “Andrei Şaguna” National High School

City: Braşov

"One may indeed wonder: Why choose Iapetus, when you can go for Saturn, whose unrivaled 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."