Polarization of Saturn’s moon Iapetus
II. Comparison of the dark and the bright sides⋆
1 Max-Planck-Institut für Sonnensystemforschung, Max-Planck-Strasse 2, 37191 Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany
2 Institut für Geophysik und extraterrestishe Physik, TU Braunschweig, Mendelssohn Str.3, 38106 Braunschweig, Germany
3 Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh BT61 9DG, Northern Ireland, UK
4 Department of Physics, PO Box 64, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
5 Finnish Geodetic Institute, PO Box 15, 02431 Masala, Finland
6 Department of Astronomy, College Park, MD, 20742, University of Maryland, USA
7 INAF – Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri, Largo E. Fermi 5, 50125 Firenze, Italy
Received: 6 August 2012
Accepted: 6 November 2012
Context. The surface properties of atmosphereless solar system objects can be constrained by investigating the nature of the polarized light scattered from their surfaces.
Aims. We provide new and precise measurements of the phase angle and the wavelength dependence of linear polarization on the leading side of Iapetus over the maximum phase angle range accessible from Earth (~0.5−6.0°) and over a broad spectral range (400–800 nm), thereby identifying the polarimetric characteristics of its dark material. Moreover, we provide circular spectral polarization measurement of the same side of Iapetus at one phase angle, which was performed aiming at detection of chiral signatures on its surface. We also compare our new polarization measurements with those of the trailing hemisphere of Iapetus which were obtained in our previous work.
Methods. Using the FORS2 instrument of the ESO VLT, we performed spectro-polarimetric observations of Iapetus’ leading side.
Results. While the linear polarization measurements of Iapetus’ leading side show an opposite trend in phase angle dependence to that of its trailing hemisphere, the polarization values measured for the two hemispheres around similar phase angles (in the range ~3.0−6.0°) differ by a factor of three. Besides this, the degree of negative linear polarization of Iapetus’ leading hemisphere shows a slight dependence on the wavelengths of observations. Furthermore, like that of its trailing hemisphere, the circular polarization measurement of Iapetus’ leading side indicates no evidence of a significant amount of optically active (chiral) molecules on its surface.
Key words: scattering / polarization / methods: observational / techniques: polarimetric / planets and satellites: surfaces
© ESO, 2012