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Iapetus Retains Its Youthful Figure
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Iapetus Retains Its Youthful Figure

July 18, 2007

Saturn's distinctive moon Iapetus (eye-APP-eh-tuss) is cryogenically frozen in the equivalent of its teenage years. The moon has retained the youthful figure and bulging waistline it sported more than three billion years ago, scientists report.

Unlike any other moon in the solar system, Iapetus is the same shape today as it was when it was just a few hundred million years old; a well-preserved relic from the time when the solar system was young. These results appear in the online version of the journal Icarus.

Cassini flew by Iapetus in early 2005 and discovered the moon had a walnut shape, bulging at its midsection. On top of that it has a chain of mountains located exactly along its equator.

Scientists now think the moon's bulging midriff and slow spin rate point to heating from long-extinct radioactive elements present when the solar system was born.



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