The Dark Side of Iapetus

It takes a considerable amount of time and energy to stand out in a place dominated by sixty moons, especially when you are on the far end of Saturn’s reign.

                       NASA/JPL. Saturn: A Cassini Legacy. 2017. nasa.gov. Web. 02 Feb. 2018

The gas giant looms ahead, the large distance between us diminishing none of its size and serenity. Its tidal force nourishes all of the rocks and moons that circle around its equator. In this part of the solar system where sun rays are weak, Saturn’s tidal force is the only source of heat for its moons and rocks. I am hidden in shadows, way too far from the planet for its tidal force to be of any significant use. I had already dissipated most of my primordial heat, and the scarce amount of sunlight has left me cold and brittle.
I had formed rock by rock, molding them together until I formed a firm, steady sphere. I admit the bulge at my equator is due to my indulgence to spin faster. The only thing I like about my position here is that my orbit is quite inclined, not confining me around the planet’s equator.
The loneliness due to my far-off distance from other moons and a rather wide orbit is balanced by the interesting events that I get to see in and around Saturn. The hexagonal cloud on its the North Pole, the clouds that cleverly engulf the energetic storms and all the moons that huddle close to it.

I took comfort in the fact that there’s another, much farther planet out there very much like me to keep me company. One only had to glance at Phoebe’s battered surface to see that it had had its share of collisions with other rocks.

NASA/ESA/JPL/SSI. Phoebe: Comet Moon of Saturn. 2008. nasa.gov. Web. 02 Feb. 2018.

The captured moon from the Kuiper belt sure received a warm welcome from the locals. Most of it had blasted away, leaving a trail of sparsely scattered rocks in its orbit. These rocks gradually began spiraling inwards towards Saturn.

And that, was my opening.

I began sweeping up these particles and being tidally locked to Saturn, only one of my sides was able to plow into them. My leading side eventually became dark, while my other half remained snow-white. I enjoyed this new appearance immensely. As far as I could tell, there are no other moons in the solar system that look like me. All I need to do is wait for Phoebe to be hit time and again so that I can sweep up its rocks.

That’s when I see it.

The small moon that I had captured not long ago now hovered close. Dangerously close. One hard hit and the appearance I had so carefully built would shatter in no time. I had not paid much attention to it, thinking of it as an added bonus to my already unique appearance. But my tidal forces had braked upon its speed, causing it to slow down enough for my gravity to pull it in.
Determined, I allow my gravity to tear it to shreds. The debris eventually flattened out into a ring very much like Saturn’s. A sense of pride!

The ring slowly landed on my equator with no more than a soft thud. The angle and the speed were so low that instead of tearing down my surface, it started collecting upon each other, forming a strong ridge.

NASA/ESA/JPL/SSI. Phoebe: Comet Moon of Saturn. 2008. nasa.gov. Web. 02 Feb. 2018.

So here I was. The farthest and the unique moon in the Saturnian world with a Ying-Yang surface and a ridge that spoke of everything I stood for. And after more than a few billion years into this world, I finally, finally felt home.

 

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