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Pac Man in the moon

pac man.bmpIf you’ve ever struggled to see the claimed ‘Man in the Moon’ on Earth’s satellite, this one should be a bit easier for you.

NASA’s new temperature map of Saturn’s moon Mimas reveals a pretty obvious “Pac-Man eating a dot”. The map was produced by the Cassini probe and is presenting some problems for scientists.

Researchers expected smoothly varying temperatures over the surface, says NASA, with temperatures peaking in the afternoon (image below, left). However – as you can see in the actual heat map – temperatures were higher in the morning along one side of Mimas (image below, left middle).

The ‘dot’ in the image is understandable: it is the large Herschel Crater which likely traps heat inside due to the 5 km high walls. But the appearance of 80s icon Pac Man is something of a mystery.

“We suspect the temperatures are revealing differences in texture on the surface,” says John Spencer, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder (press release). “It’s maybe something like the difference between old, dense snow and freshly fallen powder.”

Just to squeeze in another cultural reference, NASA says the Herschel Crater also makes the moon resemble the Death Star (image below, right middle).

mimas upper.bmpmimas lower.bmp

Image: NASA/JPL/GSFC/SWRI/SSI

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