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This map of the surface of Iapetus, generated from images taken by NASA's Cassini and Voyager spacecraft, illustrates the imaging coverage planned for Cassini's very close flyby of the two-toned moon on Sept. 10, 2007. This flyby will be Cassini's only close approach to Iapetus (1,468 kilometers, or 912 miles across) during the entire planned mission. At closest approach, Cassini will be 1,640 kilometers (1,020 miles) above the surface of Iapetus. The spacecraft will pass the moon at a speed of about 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles) per second--a relatively leisurely pace that will allow plenty of time for the scientific instruments on board to collect massive amounts of data. Cassini's previous encounter with Iapetus, on Dec. 31, 2004, focused on the mysterious territory in Cassini Regio, the region blanketed by dark material that covers most of the moon's leading hemisphere. The upcoming encounter will be primarily concerned with terrain farther west, in the important transition region between Cassini Regio and the bright trailing hemisphere. Scientists hope to learn a great deal more about the composition of the materials that compose the surface of Iapetus during this encounter. Another area of focus is the large equatorial ridge that overlies the moon's equator (see
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