Yeunjae Choi (Jessica)

Year: 2015-16

Target: Rings and Moons

"Our interest in space has always mainly been focused on the possibility of extraterrestrial life. However, space, being endlessly mysterious, still poses many unanswered questions for scientists. Because of this, scientists have used the Cassini-Huygens satellite to already make many successful discoveries about Saturn, making the planet itself well-understood. However, its moons and rings remain relatively mysterious and the study of these secretive celestial bodies could help us learn more about both our own planet and the possibility of life in outer space. Therefore, the Cassini project should focus the satellite on observing Tethys, Enceladus, and Saturn's rings.

Water and atmosphere are necessities in supporting life. Water's quality of being a universal solvent and changing states in a narrow temperature range make it important in providing the energy that sustain organisms. The existence of an atmosphere is also crucial, because it protects the celestial body from excessive comet impact and radiation. Thus, it is logical to focus on analyzing celestial bodies that have such characteristic.

Enceladus' unique characteristics, which are surprisingly similar to those of Earth, suggest that the moon is an ideal candidate for further research. The most prominent feature is the internal salty ocean. The ocean lies beneath cyrovolcanoes, which are similar to Earth's geysers.The jets of water vapor emitted by the volcanoes are known to contribute to Enceladus' atmosphere. These factors contribute to scientists' claim of Enceladus as one of the best candidates for extraterrestrial life.

In addition to water and atmosphere, Saturn's rings possess additional qualities that resemble those of Earth. The rings contain water in addition to oxygen, which is one of the most vital elements for supporting human life. Moreover, the rings are known to possess not only and atmosphere, but also to have weather. The weather of Saturn is consisted of interaction between the planet and its rings. The rain from the rings seemingly quench the planet, which is very similar to the interaction on Earth. However, the atmosphere of Saturn peculiarly, rains not only water, but also diamonds. While these features may not directly prove the existence of life in the rings, further research on Saturn's rings can provide a better understanding of peculiar phenomenon such as diamond rain as well as of our own planet.

The further analysis of Tethys, Enceladus, and Saturn's rings would be highly fruitful to the general causes of the Cassini Project. Scientists would be able to better understand some of the many mysteries of this region of the solar system and also increase our chances of finding some evidence of extraterrestrial life, whether it has existed now or sometime in the past. By using the Cassini-Huygens satellite to focus on this area, scientists would increase their overall understanding of the solar system more compared to any other target."

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