This scene simulates a shot taken in low orbit over Saturn's moon Iapetus, looking down at a string of domed settlements built along the mighty equatorial ridge that runs along a large part of the moon's circumference.
This mysterious feature was only discovered as late as 2004 by the Cassini spacecraft, taking photos of the moon from orbit, and it is as of yet unknown how it came to be. It is about 1,3 thousand kilometers long, 20 kilometers wide and at places has peaks rising more than 20 kilometers above the surrounding plains. The area shown in this shot is however, not one of the tallest parts of the ridge, as I wanted to show the moon from a place from where Saturn is visible. As is the case with most moons, Iapetus is tidally locked to its parent planet, resulting in Saturn always being in the same place in the sky.
This was the first shot I made for the film, inspired by Kim Stanley Robinssons novel "2312" in which he describes a large urban area built along the ridge of Iapetus. The shot is almost built entirely in CG using various maps and photos from the NASA JPL photojournal
as reference. Saturn in the background is a photo from the Cassini spacecraft (NASA/CICLOPS) but I don't know exactly when it was taken.
Again, I may have taken some artistic liberties here in making the city domes nearly unbelievably huge. The dome on the large city in the distance would be over 1 kilometer tall compared to the scale of the landscape. Now, the gravity on Iapetus is only a fraction of the Earths, so such structures like these would indeed be possible. It's just that there might take some time before we see such interest in living on Iapetus that there is need to build cities for millions and millions of people.
However, as a final note, Iapetus is one of very few moons around Saturn that has an orbit not entirely aligned to the plane of the rings, so, while on most other moons you would only see the rings as a mere stripe, from Iapetus you would see them in their full glory. So when it comes to amazing views, Iapetus would make for some highly valuable real estate.
I recommend turning to the wikipedia site for more reading on Iapetus
, for example about its unique "yin/yang" coloring, being almost entirely white on one side, and dark brown on the other...