Cassini Scientist for a Day 2015 – kat. 16-18

Zwycięzca w kategorii 16-18 lat

Magdalena Baranowska, cel II – Jowisz

Przedstawiciel szkoły: Justyna Gołaszewska

Szkoła: II Liceum Ogólnokształcące imienia doktora Władysława Pniewskiego w Gdańsku

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I do not remember when exactly I became interested in astronomy but I know I was very young. I was 10 years old when I got my first real telescope. I believed that it is the door to another world. The first object I saw through the telescope was Jupiter. I remember how astonished I was during the observations of lighter-hued zones, darker belts, Great Red Spot and its moons. I had never been so happy before. I saw a different world. I felt like I was there. Like this planet was from another solar system.

From Cassini-Huygens, Jupiter looks like a small dot. The spacecraft is billions of kilometers away from the planet. What if we assume that Jupiter is an exoplanet – a planet beyond our solar system? It would be a good idea to take a distant photo of Jupiter. For several years, people have grown more and more interested in exoplanets. Exoplanet hunters have already found about 2000 planets orbiting around stars. My impression is that for scientists this kind of photo would be very important. We would be able to observe how a planet with an atmosphere looks from far away. Furthermore, we can take an image in the infrared and ultraviolet. Maybe we could collect some data that would help us search for the “Second Earth” and plan future mission to study exoplanets.

Cassini has already taken photos of Jupiter, but the images were taken from a close approach. Voyager 1 took a distant photo of Jupiter, but it was in 1978. Cassini has better instruments now, for example cameras and spectrographs. None of these probes focused on the vision if Jupiter was an exoplanet and collected data about it. Voyager 1 and 2 could not do that because in 1978 we did not know about planets from different solar systems.  We could use the transit method of detecting exoplanets and take a photo while Jupiter passes the Sun’s disk. We would notice how stellar spectrum is changing when light passes through the atmosphere of the planet. Of course, if it was possible. To observe the transit of Jupiter, the planet, the spacecraft and the Sun would have to be perfectly aligned at the straight line. In the near future it is unlikely to happen.

In next few months Juno will be arriving on the orbit of Jupiter. This spacecraft will be exploring and analyzing the biggest planet in our Solar System. Before Juno reaches the orbit, Cassini would amass new information or refresh the latest data. Perhaps it would help the spacecraft Juno on the journey around Jupiter. Also, we could try observing if and how Jupiter reacts when instruments are near the planet.

Nowadays, when we are using probes we can honestly say like Ptolemy said “our feet no longer touch the earth we ascend to Zeus himself and take our fill of ambrosia”. Jupiter has been observed for many years and we are still discovering new information about the planet.