Follow this link to skip to the main content

2014 Essay Contest: Winner, Target 3, Grade 9 - 12

2014 Essay Contest: Winner, Target 3, Grade 9 - 12

photos non available
Target 3, Saturn
Chelsey Frank, Dominick Frank, and Carolyn Frank

10th, 9th, and 7th Grade
Farmington, Maine

"Discovered over 30 years ago, Saturn’s Hexagon is still shrouded in mystery. What creates the six-sided swirling storm? How does it sustain itself in such a massive size with no body of water underneath? By answering these questions, scientists may gain a better understanding of Earth’s weather patterns. Saturn’s north pole is the best target for a Cassini fly-by because it may advance our knowledge of hurricanes and other large storms on Earth. Through further examination of the unusual characteristics of Saturn’s Hexagon, scientists could learn more about how weather patterns on Earth interact with both large bodies of water and each other.

One of the main questions being asked by Cassini scientists concerning Saturn’s north pole is that on the Hexagon’s creation. Some scientists believe the hexagonal shape is formed by super fast winds swirling around the pole; however, others believe six wave-like structures in Saturn’s atmosphere are causing the six-sided vortex. The Hexagon is locked at Saturn’s north pole, unlike polar vortices on Earth. Scientists do not understand why the Hexagon has never veered away from its position at the pole since the 1980s. Further imaging of the Hexagon could expose details that Cassini scientists do not already know, resulting in a solution to this mystery.

Some of the most puzzling obscurities of the Hexagon are those concerning the nature of its hurricanes. Saturn’s cyclones do not form over oceans as terrestrial hurricanes do. This fact defies our knowledge of hurricanes on Earth; these hurricanes always form over oceans. By studying these storms, Cassini scientists could gain knowledge on Earth’s hurricanes and their interactions with large bodies of water. Usually, hurricanes slow down and decrease significantly in size when they are no longer over water; therefore, how is the hurricane on Saturn able to maintain its massive structure in Saturn’s clouds of gas?

Cassini’s Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) could allow scientists to determine the temperature of the atmosphere within the Hexagon. Higher temperatures mean a higher intensity in hurricanes. By knowing the temperature of Saturn’s atmosphere, scientists can learn more about the strength of the polar hurricane. This knowledge could help Cassini scientists understand the vast differences between Saturn’s hurricanes and those on Earth, and the affect of these differences on the nature of Saturn’s hurricanes.

Imaging of Saturn’s north pole could help scientists gain valuable knowledge on terrestrial hurricanes and other weather patterns. This knowledge could help forecasters predict hazardous weather conditions. Therefore, Saturn’s north pole is the best target for a Cassini fly-by because the information gained from the Cassini images could greatly improve our understanding of both Earth and Saturn’s weather systems. By doing so, we could improve our ability to predict the intensity and locations of hurricanes on Earth and decipher the mysteries surrounding the curious ringed planet."