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2014 Essay Contest: Winner, Target 1, Grade 7 - 8

2014 Essay Contest: Winner, Target 1, Grade 7 - 8

Luca Robinson
Saturn's F ring
Saturn's F ring
Luca P.B. Robinson

Castaic Middle School
8th Grade
Castaic, California

Teacher: Dr. John DeLemos

"As I write this essay, today marks 50 years of NASA listening to space, reminding us that continued exploration is key. The choice is always difficult in deciding what should be explored, when the possibilities seem endless. But I must decide on Cassini concentrating on Saturn’s outermost of main rings, the F Ring.

According to the Cassini Solstice Mission, any further probing into Saturn will need to be completed by September 15, 2017, so by November 30, 2016, we have an opportunity to view Saturn’s F Ring in depth. This will eventually lead to investigating Saturn’s innermost, D Ring, before terminating the mission into Saturn’s atmosphere. From November 2016 to April 2016, Cassini might be able to go the ring plane 44 times, with the first 22 times, at a safe distance, approximately 10,000 miles outside the F Ring, without destruction.

So why the F Ring? Well, the whole idea of being at this location, though dangerous, because of Cassini’s risk of being struck by high speed, icy bodies, means getting images at least 10 times greater than already existing images. These images will give us an understanding about Saturn’s total mass, which includes the mass of its rings! Measuring their mass, would be like judging the age of a tree, by its rings. As an 8th grader, we have been concentrating on mass, density, gravity, and acceleration, and how they relate to one another. The question should be answered, as to how Saturn’s mass in total, and gravity contribute to the F Ring’s constant change in shape, inconsistent with a typical elliptical form. Why the braided, spirals formation? Voyager 1 saw this. Cassini also saw spirals. Why the changing strands? Voyager 2 saw this. We need to see if it’s more than just Prometheus and Pandora, Saturn’s shepherd moons, causing this. Is something other than gravity, and inertia causing it? Will we find other obstructions, as we did with B Ring? Will there be crystallized patterns, almost wall-like geometrical shapes, as we did with B Ring?

In conclusion, probably the largest shift shaper in our universe should be explored, because it is just that, different from all the rest. I wish NASA continued success on their final journey with Cassini, and thank them for this opportunity."