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International Edition Winners 2009: The Netherlands

International Edition Winners 2009: The Netherlands

Ype de Groot, Mike Brockbernd and Paul Lemmens
Target 3: Titan
Ype de Groot, Mike Brockbernd and Paul Lemmens
10th grade
Het Sint Maartenscollege, Maastricht

" Saturn is one of the most special planets in our solar system. When Galileo Galilei looked trough his handmade telescope at Saturn, he saw this planet in threefold. He described this appearance as handles, ansae. The Dutchman Huygens proved 50 years later that these ansae were the rings of Saturn. That's one of the reasons why Saturn is a special planet. The other reason why Saturn is special, is his moon Titan.

Titan, the biggest moon but one in our solar system, was discovered by Chrisitian Huygens in 1655. The rotation of Titan around his own axis takes the same time as it needs to turn around Saturn, just like our moon does around the earth.

Titan is the only moon in the solar system which has got an own close atmosphere. And that atmosphere is almost the same as the original atmosphere of our planet, because Titan has, as one of the few celestial bodies, nitrogen in his atmosphere. The atmospheric pressure is only one and a half times bigger than that of our planet. Titan looks like our planet when there was no life. Because it is so cold conditions are saved.

So Titan is an important source of data for scientists when they will study the beginning of life on earth. Because of the ultraviolet radiation of the sun the nitrogen gas in the atmosphere of Titan reacts with methane, which causes the forming of complicated molecules. These kind of molecules have been studied for the first time on earth when scientists tried to simulate the beginning of life on earth. Maybe the same process that is happening on Titan now, once happened on earth. On earth the complicated molecules of nitrogen gas and methane, were dissolved in water. Later the first forms of life were formed. On Titan, the complicated molecules could not dissolve in water, so a big orange cloud was formed, which now can be seen as an orange fog. You could imagine that there would be the possibility of forming life on Titan, when the temperature could rise, so the ice then would melt and become water.

On Titan, there are three big seas, surrounded by deep frozen water ice. They all have one thing in common, the fact that they don't contain water, but methane. So if clouds are being formed, they will exist of methane. When it rains on Titan, it will rain methane. Like on earth, there is on Titan a cycle, though it's not a cycle of water, but a cycle of methane or ethane. In the cold air, complicated molecules condense, which later will rain down as methane or ethane. In earlier days, scientists thought that Titan was completely covered by methane or ethane.

Conclusion: we have chosen Titan, because this moon has much resemblance with Earth in its original condition. Titan holds a treasure of information for scientists who investigate the beginning of life on earth. "