A Tour of the Moons of Saturn – Iapetus

The excitement of scientists upon Cassini-Huygens entering the Saturnian System was reserved mostly for Titan, Saturn itself, and its rings. That the other moons might be something more than cratered and dead ice bodies was hardly expected.

Enter Iapetus. This strange moon between Phoebe and Titan helped write the exciting new chapter of Saturn moon exploration. Upon the side of Iapetus facing toward its motion around Saturn is a coating of debris “as dark as asphalt,” according to the official NASA Cassini-Huygens page for the moon. The other half of the moon is “bright as snow.”

Perhaps even more surprising was the discovery of a mountain range that neatly straddles the equator of the moon, a ring around Iapetus’ middle that makes little sense at all. Some scientists believe that the formation of this mountain range may provide an explanation for the dark debris, although others believe the debris falls onto the surface from an outside sources.

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Richard Leis

Richard Leis is a fiction writer and poet, with his first published poem forthcoming later in 2017 from Impossible Archetype. His essays about fairy tales and technology have been published on Tiny Donkey. Richard is also the Downlink Lead for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) team at the University of Arizona. He monitors images of the Martian surface taken by the HiRISE camera located on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in orbit around Mars and helps ensure they process successfully and are validated for quick release to the science community and public. Once upon a time, Richard wrote and edited the science and technology news and commentary website Frontier Channel, hosted the RADIO Frontier Channel podcast, and organized transhumanist clubs. Follow Richard on his website (richardleis.com), on Goodreads (richardleis), his Micro.blog (@richardleis), Twitter (@richardleisjr), and Facebook (richardleisjr).