The slim crescent of Iapetus looms before the Cassini spacecraft as it approaches the mysterious moon.
Iapetus, 1,468 kilometers (912 miles) across, seen here in false color, is unique in its dramatic variation in brightness between the northern polar region and the middle and low latitudes. Equally prominent is the moon's equatorial ridge of towering mountains. The profile of the ridge against the darkness of space reveals that it is topped by a cratered plateau approximately 15 kilometers (9 miles) wide. Further west, the profile of the ridge changes from a long plateau to discrete peaks.
The mosaic consists of four image footprints across the surface of Iapetus and has a resolution of 489 meters (0.3 miles) per pixel.
A full-resolution clear filter image was combined with half-resolution images taken with infrared, green and ultraviolet spectral filters (centered at 752, 568 and 338 nanometers, respectively) to create this full-resolution false color mosaic.
The color seen in this view represents an expansion of the wavelength region of the electromagnetic spectrum visible to human eyes. The intense reddish-brown hue of the dark material is far less pronounced in true color images. The use of enhanced color makes the reddish character of the dark material more visible than it would be to the naked eye. In addition, the scene has been brightened to improve the visibility of surface features.
This view was acquired with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Sept. 10, 2007, at a distance of about 83,000 kilometers (51,600 miles) from 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 imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute