The Other Side of Iapetus
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The Other Side of Iapetus

The Other Side of Iapetus

Courtesy of NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Cassini captures the first high-resolution glimpse of the bright trailing hemisphere of Saturn's moon Iapetus. This false-color mosaic shows the entire hemisphere of Iapetus (1,468 km, or 912 mi across) visible from Cassini on the outbound leg of its encounter with the two-toned moon in Sept. 2007. Shown here is the complicated transition region between the dark leading and bright trailing hemispheres. This region, visible along the right side of the image, was observed in many of the images acquired by Cassini near closest approach during the encounter.
Revealed here for the first time in detail are the geologic structures that mark the trailing hemisphere. The region appears heavily cratered, particularly in the north and south polar regions. Near the top of the mosaic, numerous impact features visible in NASA Voyager 2 spacecraft images (acquired in 1981) are visible, including the craters Ogier and Charlemagne.
The most prominent topographic feature in this view, in the bottom half of the mosaic, is a 450-km (280-m) wide impact basin, one of at least nine such large basins on Iapetus. In fact, the basin overlaps an older, similar-sized impact basin to its southeast.
In many places, the dark material--thought to be composed of nitrogen-bearing organic compounds called cyanides, hydrated minerals and other carbonaceous minerals--appears to coat equator-facing slopes and crater floors. The distribution of this material and variations in the color of the bright material across the trailing hemisphere will be crucial clues to understanding the origin of Iapetus' peculiar bright-dark dual personality.
The view was acquired at a distance of about 73,000 km (45,000 mi) from Iapetus.