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The Strangest Moon Of Our Solar System

Saturn’s rings with many features inside, Jupiter’s four major moons, and much more. But there was one object in the night sky that baffled even the best of astronomers, Saturn’s moon– Iapetus.

This moon would go on to become one of the strangest moons in our solar system.

What made it different and so strange? In 1671, Italian astronomer Giovanni Cassini was studying Saturn, which already had a massive moon known as Titan, when he found another moon: Iapetus.

While Cassini would go on to discover many other moons of Saturn, including Iapetus, it was one of the oddest objects anyone had ever seen in the sky.

Cassini located Iapetus on Saturn’s western side, but when he looked for it later in its orbit, on Saturn’s eastern side, it was nowhere to be seen. Iapetus — was quickly observed doing something no other moon had ever done before: it was only visible for half of its orbit.

Iapetus was utterly invisible the other half of the period, unable to be identified by any method, yet seemed to obey regular gravitational rules throughout.

This remained true for decades, until Cassini, with a far improved telescope, finally saw it in 1705, a full two magnitudes fainter than it appears on Saturn’s western side.

As astonishing as that was, it was only the beginning of unravelling the enigma of Iapetus, our solar system’s strangest moon.

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1.3k shares, 287 points

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