Saturday, January 1

What were you doing on New Year's Eve? I'm sure nothing this exciting. The Cassini spacecraft spent Dec. 31 flying by the icy Saturn moon Iapetus. There are hundreds of photos now available on the raw images pages. There are some remarkable features on the moon.

Update. Here is an article from the 31st on the fly by:
With a diameter of about 1,400 kilometers (890 miles), Iapetus is Saturn's third largest moon. It was discovered by Jean-Dominique Cassini in 1672. It was Cassini, for whom the Cassini-Huygens mission is named, who correctly deduced that one side of Iapetus was dark, while the other was white.

Scientists still do not agree on whether the dark material originated from an outside source or was created from Iapetus' own interior. One scenario for the outside deposit of material would involve dark particles being ejected from Saturn’s little moon Phoebe and drifting inward to coat Iapetus. The major problem with this model is that the dark material on Iapetus is redder than Phoebe, although the material could have undergone chemical changes that made it redder after its expulsion from Phoebe. One observation lending credence to the theory of an internal origin is the concentration of material on crater floors, which implies that something is filling in the craters. In one model proposed by scientists, methane could erupt from the interior and then become darkened by ultraviolet radiation.


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