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Cassini Captures Saturn's Moon Iapetus, Completes 8th Dive Through Rings

Jun 15, 2017 08:32 AM EDT
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Cassini spacecraft finds hydrothermal activity that could support life on Saturn's moon Enceladus
Backstage Pass to Iapetus
NASA Cassini mission continues to explore Saturn and its moon. Recently, it managed to take a high resolution photograph of Saturn's moon Iapetus.
(Photo : NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/YouTube Screenshot)

NASA released another otherworldly image from the Cassini mission to Saturn. Cassini perfectly captured Saturn's moon called Iapetus, named after the Italian astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini who discovered the moon in 1671.

Visible in the image is the Cassini Regio, a dark region covered in "dark, dusty material." The material reduced the reflectivity of the area, making it stand out in photographs against the rest of the surface. However, the dark material baffles scientists since they still cannot tell how the dark material got there.

Iapetus and Its Contrasting Sides

Some say it could be due to an eruption from the core of Iapetus. While some believe it could be remnants from impacts from other bodies. There were also bright points on Iapetus and it's called Roncevaus Terra. The two regions highlight the photograph taken by Cassini due to their contrasting properties.

"Cassini Regio on Iapetus (914 miles or 1,471 kilometers across) is covered in a layer of dark, dusty material creating a stark contrast to the much brighter region that surrounds it," a NASA official said in a press release. "This leads to the moon's distinctive, two-toned appearance."

Cassini Dives

Recently, the Cassini mission also completed its 8th dive through Saturn's rings. The dive is part of its mission before its Grand Finale "death dive" on Sept. 15 where the spacecraft will voluntary plunge to its death signaling the end of the mission.

During the 8th dive, the spacecraft captured the southern hemisphere of Saturn in high resolution. Part of the mission is to investigate how winds, atmosphere and cloud structure on Saturn change due to the changing seasons.

The next dive is scheduled on June 16 and it will focus on observing the ultraviolet and infrared images of the planet's aurora. The next dive will also try to observe the relationship between Saturn's rings and the atmosphere.

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