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Iapetus Surface Composition

Category: Moons > Iapetus

Four views of Iapetus in color and black and white.

Iapetus Surface Composition
January 10, 2005
Full-Res: PIA07003

The Cassini visual and infrared mapping spectrometer analyzed the surface composition of Saturn's moon Iapetus as Cassini flew over the polar region on Dec. 31, 2004. The image at left shows the reflectance at 4-microns, which is dominated by the minerals on Iapetus' surface. Two large craters are seen in this image.

The polar water ice is relatively dark at this wavelength, so the ice cap is not seen. The next frame shows carbon dioxide on the surface. The carbon dioxide peaks at mid latitudes and shows less strength at the pole and along the equator (the dark band curving near the left edge of the image). The third frame shows the strength of water absorption on Iapetus. The brightest regions are due to water ice near the pole. The grayer areas indicate water bound to minerals on the surface. The color composite shows water as blue, carbon dioxide as green, and non-ice minerals as red.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The visible and infrared mapping spectrometer team is based at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit, For more information about the visual and infrared mapping spectrometer visit


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