Saturn moon shows 'Pac-man' face

Nov. 26, 2012 at 8:23 PM

PASADENA, Calif., Nov. 26 (UPI) -- NASA scientists studying the moons of Saturn say they've found another example of a so-called "Pac-man" feature revealed in temperature scans.

Thermal data from the moon Tethys captured by the Cassini spacecraft shows a feature shaped like the 1980s video game icon, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., reported Monday.

It follows a similar discover in the same kind of data gathered from the moon Mimas in 2010, JPL said.

Scientists say they believe the Pac-Man thermal shapes on the two moons occur because of the way high-energy electrons bombard low latitudes on the side of the moons facing forward as they orbit around Saturn.

The bombardment alters different regions of the moons' surfaces, so that some areas do not heat as rapidly in the sunshine or cool down as quickly at night.

"Finding a second Pac-Man in the Saturn system tells us that the processes creating these Pac-Men are more widespread than previously thought," researcher Carly Howett said. "The Saturn system -- and even the Jupiter system -- could turn out to be a veritable arcade of these characters."

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