If you’re looking to learn more about Saturn’s moons, then you’re going to want to look at Iapetus. As the third largest moon of Saturn, it’s quite far out from the planet and it has a unique shape which is loosely spherical. Lets look at some interesting facts about the moon Iapetus.
Iapetus Moon Facts
- Iapetus has an estimated radius of 456.4 miles (734.5km). It is the eleventh biggest moon in our solar system.
- This makes it less than a third of the size of Saturn’s biggest moon, Titan.
- Iapetus orbits Saturn at a very far distance of 2,213,000 miles (3,561,000 kilometers). The only major planet that is further out than this is Phoebe, which is more than 8,000,000 miles from Saturn.
- Because of it’s distance from Saturn, it takes Iapetus 79 days to complete one full orbit of the planet.
- This moon takes it’s name from the Titan Iapetus, from Greek mythology.
- Iapetus was discovered by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Cassini, who also discovered Rhea, Tethys and Dione.
- Iapetus is one of Saturn’s most heavily cratered moons
- The biggest crater on Iapetus is named Abisme, and it has a diameter of 767.74km, making it one of the largest in the solar system.
- The temperature on Iapetus can range from anywhere between -130°c to -180°c.
- Although Iapetus was discovered in 1671, much of what we know about it now has come from the more recent Cassini-Huygens space mission in 2007.
- Most of the features on Iapetus are named after a French poem which is called The Song of Roland.
Common Questions about Iapetus
Where does Iapetus get it’s name?
Iapetus takes it’s name from a Titan from Greek mythology, the Sun of Uranus and Gaia (Gaia is the personification of Earth). He is the father of hero Prometheus, as well as Atlas, the Titan who was made to hold the sky on his shoulders for all eternity by Zeus and the Olympians.
What is Iapetus made of?
We know that Iapetus has a very low density, which leads astronomers to believe that it is primarily made up of water ice. Much like Hyperion, it doesn’t take the typical spherical shape of other moons, and is a little bit irregular (though not as irregular as Hyperion).
What is on the surface of Iapetus?
There are many large craters on the surface of Iapetus, like Abisme and Turgis, which are both more than 500km in diameter. What is most striking about Iapetus is the contrast between it’s hemispheres. Whilst one side of this moon is light in color, the other side is one of the darkest surfaces in the entire solar system. This makes it very strange to look at through a telescope.
What is the orbit pattern of Iapetus?
Iapetus is more than 2,000,000 miles away from Saturn when it is orbiting the planet, which is much further than the next closest moon, which is Titan. This means that it takes a significant time for it to orbit the planet (79 days). It also has a highly inclined orbit, much more than the other moons (excluding Phoebe).
Is it possible to see Iapetus with a telescope?
The good news is that it is possible to see Iapetus with a telescope. However, bear in mind that Iapetus does have a unique ridge across it’s equator that makes it appear quite strange.
Overall, Iapetus is one of the larger moons of Saturn and indeed in our solar system. It has many large craters which makes it’s appearance quite unique, as well as it’s two-tone coloring of a darker hemisphere and a lighter hemisphere. Hopefully, you’ve learned something new about the moon Iapetus.