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International Edition Winners 2009: Canada

International Edition Winners 2009: Canada

Karen Butt

9th Grade
The Study school
Westmount, Quebec

" Cassini should point its cameras at Target 3, Titan. This moon has proven to be very interesting, but there is still much more to find out. Scientists have discovered many similarities between Titan and Earth. It is even believed that it resembles the Earth before life evolved there. By taking another look at Titan, many discoveries can be made about the moon itself, the history of our own planet, and the evolution of life.

Titan has much in common with the Earth. It has a thick atmosphere composed mainly of nitrogen and it has large bodies of liquid methane and ethane instead of water like on Earth. Saturn's moon also has something similar to Earth's water cycle except with hydrocarbons. It has volcanoes that erupt liquid water and ammonia.

Titan has the second densest atmosphere in our solar system, after Venus. Jupiter's moons are about the same size, but for an unknown reason, they do not have atmospheres. It is possible that Titan shares common features with Venus such as warm spots at the poles, but this is yet to be confirmed. Another mystery about Titan's atmosphere is why it contains more nitrogen-15 isotopes than nitrogen-14. This can be explained if most of the atmosphere evaporated into space, the lighter nitrogen atoms escaping more easily. This would mean that Titan once had an extremely thick atmosphere, making it similar to a gas giant. This is still a huge puzzle for scientists.

Titan is intriguing from a geological point of view as well. Scientists believe that its landscape is still shaping itself. This is because there are no craters, which have probably been filled in by erosion. This is assuming that Titan has been impacted by meteors in the past, of which there is no proof. It is important that Cassini studies Titan's surface while the opportunity still exists, as it will be the clearest look scientists will get. Cassini is much closer to Titan than scientists on Earth and it is equipped with a radar to see through the atmosphere.

There is water under Titan's surface that occasionally erupts out of volcanoes. The presence of water, hydrocarbons, and an atmosphere make it a good candidate to be able to support life. It is possible that microbial life already exists in the water under the surface. If we witness life forming on Titan, we can figure out how life came to be on Earth.

Cassini's cameras should be pointed at Titan as there are still many unknowns about this planet. Most of what is known has not been proven. Its common features with Earth can help make discoveries about our own planet. It is also possible that this satellite can support life. If other forms of life eventually appear on Titan, more can be learned about how life first appeared on Earth. Titan is a target with great potential to make further scientific discoveries. "