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Beyond Earthly Skies

Origin of the Equatorial Ridge on Iapetus

12 Apr 2014, 15:50 UTC
Origin of the Equatorial Ridge on Iapetus
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Iapetus is the 3rd largest moon around Saturn and like many of Saturn's moons; it is locked in synchronous rotation where the same hemisphere faces Saturn all the time. A striking two-tone colouration exists over the leading and trailing hemispheres of Iapetus. The leading hemisphere and sides are dark (albedo 0.03 - 0.05), while most of the trailing hemisphere and poles are bright (albedo 0.5 - 0.6). This two-tone colouration has a pattern analogous to a spherical yin-yang symbol.Figure 1: A mosaic showing an entire hemisphere of Iapetus. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.Iapetus has a remarkable equatorial ridge system extending over 110 degrees in longitude. Parts of the ridge have peaks that rise up to 20 km above the surrounding landscape, making these mountains amongst the highest in the Solar System. The prominent equatorial ridge system gives Iapetus an overall walnut-like appearance. A number of endogenic (i.e. processes such as tectonism or volcanism arising from the interior of Iapetus) and exogenic (i.e. processes such as debris in-fall that originate from beyond the surface of Iapetus) mechanisms have been proposed to explain the origin of the equatorial ridge system.A recent study by Lopez Garcia et al. (2014) suggests an exogenic formation mechanism ...

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