Iapetus: Unique Surface Properties and a Global Color Dichotomy from Cassini Imaging

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Science  22 Jan 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5964, pp. 435-439
DOI: 10.1126/science.1177088

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Since 2004, Saturn’s moon Iapetus has been observed repeatedly with the Imaging Science Subsystem of the Cassini spacecraft. The images show numerous impact craters down to the resolution limit of ~10 meters per pixel. Small, bright craters within the dark hemisphere indicate a dark blanket thickness on the order of meters or less. Dark, equator-facing and bright, poleward-facing crater walls suggest temperature-driven water-ice sublimation as the process responsible for local albedo patterns. Imaging data also reveal a global color dichotomy, wherein both dark and bright materials on the leading side have a substantially redder color than the respective trailing-side materials. This global pattern indicates an exogenic origin for the redder leading-side parts and suggests that the global color dichotomy initiated the thermal formation of the global albedo dichotomy.

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