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2013 Edition -- Target 3: Saturn, Grade 5 and 6 Winner

2013 Essay Contest: Target 3, Grade 5 and 6

Sanjana Krishna
Target 3, Saturn
Sanjana Krishna

6th Grade
Acton, Massachusetts

Teacher: Adi Channasamudhram

"Picture Saturn, the second largest planet but the least dense planet in the solar system, made up mostly of gas and surrounded by spectacular rings made up of almost entirely water ice!

Cassini's camera should point at Saturn and its rings because this planet with sixty two amazing moons and glorious rings is like a mini solar system and can explain many unsolved mysteries of the entire solar system. High resolution pictures from visible-light, ultraviolet and infrared cameras will help put scientists together a mosaic to get very detailed information during the Cassini Solstice mission.

The Cassini solstice mission is planning 155 orbits between the planet and its rings with 54 flybys of Titan and 11 flybys of Enceladus. Closer pictures from an orbiting spacecraft are valuable as newer angles from different planes would provide better views and help plan the flight paths that Cassini should follow. This would be helpful to navigate Cassini carefully through the rings and plan flyby distances properly. A full Saturn year is about 30 years, and it would be valuable to capture observations of seasonal changes from northern winter to summer of the entire Saturn system during this mission.

The magnetic bubble around Saturn known as the magnetosphere is filled with plasma and causes earth-like auroras. Enceladus, Dione and Titan are known to be main sources of new plasma. Cassini's high resolution images shall help scientists understand how the magnetosphere interacts with water ice to form the atmospheres around rings and icy moons and whether it influences the storms on the planet's atmosphere. Towering geysers from Enceladus blast jets of water ice into the magnetosphere that influence the radio activity and even the rotational of the magnetic field. Different visible features on Saturn have been observed to rotate at different rates. Images that help calculate the rotation rates of radio emissions related to the magnetic field would explain elusive questions about Saturn's inconsistent rotation rate.

Astronomers believe Saturn's wide but thin rings were formed when asteroids collided with one of the planet moons. The ice and dust that form Saturns E ring, for instance, have been found to originate from towering geysers on the icy moon Enceladus which sits on this ring. Cassini's high resolution images shall provide data about the composition of the rings, ringlets, gravitational waves in the rings, seasonal spokes, propeller moons and gaps like the Cassini division. Multiple images over time and especially as Cassini navigates to Saturn through the rings towards the end of the mission, shall help us understand how the rings are changing in size and weight, changes in the orbits of moons, how moonlets affect the gap openings and help unravel mysteries about the origin and age of the rings.

In conclusion, I believe Cassini should film Target Three: Saturn, because it will provide much more information than the other targets to help enhance our knowledge about Saturn and the solar system."