Grid showing Iapetus temperatures in various colors.

Photojournal: PIA07005

January 10, 2005

This temperature map of Saturn's moon Iapetus is constructed from observations of Iapetus's infrared heat radiation taken with the Cassini composite infrared spectrometer instrument during the Dec. 31, 2004 flyby. The orange asterisk marks the point on Iapetus where the Sun is directly overhead.

Temperatures reach nearly 130 Kelvin (-226 Fahrenheit) at noon on the equator on the dark material that covers most of this side of Iapetus, making high noon on Iapetus's dark side probably the warmest places in the Saturn system. This is much warmer than temperatures on the moon Phoebe measured by the composite infrared spectrometer in June 2004, which peaked near 112 Kelvin (-258 Fahrenheit). That's because, although Phoebe is almost as dark as Iapetus's dark material and absorbs nearly as much sunlight, Phoebe rotates much more quickly (once every 9 hours, compared to 79 days for Iapetus). That means the surface has less time to heat up during the day. Temperatures on Iapetus' bright material are much colder, peaking near 100 Kelvin (-280 Fahrenheit), both because the bright material absorbs less sunlight and because it is further from the equator on this side of Iapetus.

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 composite infrared spectrometer team is based at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit, and the instrument team's home page,