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See Cassini's last look at Saturn's weird yin-yang moon

NASA shares the spacecraft's final view of dark and light surfaces contrasting on Saturn's fascinating moon Iapetus.


Cassini's last observations of Iapetus show a moon of contrasts.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

NASA's Cassini spacecraft vaporized itself in Saturn's atmosphere last week, but it leaves behind an incredible legacy of exploration. The space agency shared Cassini's last view of Saturn's moon Iapetus Monday. 

Saturn has dozens of moons, but Iapetus is a standout thanks to its strange dark-and-light appearance, which leads to NASA's colorful description of a "yin-and-yang moon." The two-tone look comes from the contrast between dark, cratered regions and bright, icy areas. 

Cassini helped scientists explain this interesting phenomenon. NASA says the spacecraft's observations support a theory that "the dichotomy of the surface is due to a combination of infalling dust from outside of the moon followed by a migration of water ice from the darker (therefore warmer) areas to the cold, brighter surfaces." 

Cassini snapped this image from 1.5 million miles (2.5 million kilometers) away from the moon. It's another delightful entry in Cassini's expansive photo gallery. See more image highlights from the epic mission: