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2014 Essay Contest: Winner, Target 2, Grade 9 - 12

2014 Essay Contest: Winner, Target 2, Grade 9 - 12

Emma Spears
Target 2, Titan
Emma Spears

Powell County High School
10th Grade
Deer Lodge, Montana

Teachers: Jessica Anderson and Francis L. Spring

"Saturn’s mysterious moon, Titan, has been a point of curiosity for centuries since its discovery in 1655. The great moon, 5,150 kilometers across, is larger than some planets in our solar system. In addition to its size, it has many similarities to Earth. Some of these similarities include the running liquids on the surface and the tectonic plates below the surface. There is much to be gained from photographing this vast and mysterious member of our galaxy.

Many scientists believe that life on Earth may have begun with the formation of bacteria and simple life forms in the water on the surface. On Titan there is an abundance of methane, which, like Earth’s water, could possibly be home to a variety many different organisms. If there are organisms growing in the methane, will they evolve into organisms like humans did? More pictures of Titan could help us observe the signs of organisms that may be on Titan.

The methane on Titan’s surface could have other uses as well. On Earth, we have limited amounts of methane gas, but we have many important uses for it. Methane is one of the simplest forms of alkane gases. It is mainly used as fuel, but is also used in developing fabrics, plastics, fertilizers and anti-freezes. It is odorless and flammable and there are only limited amounts left on Earth. With more pictures of Titan, and although an idea for the future, the Cassini team could study the surface and look for ways to harvest the methane for use for space travel to edges of our solar system and galaxy.

Another characteristic that is unique to Titan is its fully developed atmosphere. Its atmosphere causes strong storms and methane rain to fall and shape the landscape. The tectonic plates also shape the landscapes. When scientists study Titan, we can learn more about Earth as well, because the two bodies are so similar.

Titan is a unique member of our solar system, but it has many similarities to our home planet. We can learn more about the possibility of life developing on it’s surface, find ways to harvest the methane for many uses, and learn more about our planet by comparing it to Titan. There is much to be gained by photographing and studying Titan."