Puzzling Saturn Moon Iapetus Shows Two-Tone Face in NASA Photo

Saturn's unusual moon Iapetus
Saturn's unusual moon Iapetus, as captured by the Cassini spacecraft March 11. Features in the image are visible at a scale of about 9 miles (15 kilometers) per pixel. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Iapetus, a Saturn moon with jumbled colors, shows its strange surface shapes in a new view from the Cassini mission, which is currently exploring the gas giant.

The picture shows Cassini Regio, a dark, dusty region on the moon that is somewhat longer than the state of California. A much brighter area surrounds Cassini Regio, which gives Iapetus a two-tone face.

The spacecraft, which is a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency, took the image in visible light on March 11 from a distance of about 1.6 million miles (2.6 million kilometers), NASA officials said in a statement. Features in the image are visible at a scale of about 9 miles (15 kilometers) per pixel.

Cassini is in its last half-year of operations before taking a deliberate suicidal plunge into Saturn in September. The spacecraft has been at the ringed planet since 2004 and is now low on fuel, completing data collection while diving 22 times between Saturn's rings and the planet itself.

Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace