Iapetus (moon) - Physical Characteristics

Physical Characteristics

The low density of Iapetus indicates that it is mostly composed of ice, with only a small (~20%) amount of rocky materials.

Unlike most of the large moons, its overall shape is neither spherical nor ellipsoid, but has a bulging waistline and squashed poles; also, its unique equatorial ridge (see below) is so high that it visibly distorts the moon's shape even when viewed from a distance. These features often lead it to be characterized as walnut-shaped.

Iapetus is heavily cratered, and Cassini images have revealed large impact basins, at least five of which are over 350 km wide. The largest, Turgis, has a diameter of 580 km; its rim is extremely steep and includes a scarp about 15 km high. Iapetus is known to support long-runout landslides or sturzstroms, possibly supported by ice sliding.

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