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

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Science  10 Dec 2009:
1177088
DOI: 10.1126/science.1177088

Abstract

Since 2004, Saturn's moon Iapetus has been observed repeatedly with the ISS camera of the Cassini spacecraft. The images show numerous impact craters down to the resolution limit of ~10 m/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.