PASADENA, Calif., March 29 (UPI) -- NASA says its Cassini spacecraft has taken the highest resolution images yet of Saturn's moon Mimas and they show "bizarre" patterns.
Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said the new temperature map and images reveal surprising patterns on the surface of the small moon, including unexpected hot regions that resemble "Pac-Man" eating a dot, and striking bands of light and dark in crater walls.
"Other moons usually grab the spotlight, but it turns out Mimas is more bizarre than we thought it was," Spilker said. "It has certainly given us some new puzzles."
Cassini collected the data Feb. 13, during its closest flyby of the moon.
"Scientists working with the composite infrared spectrometer, which mapped Mimas' temperatures, expected smoothly varying temperatures peaking in the early afternoon near the equator," NASA said. "Instead, the warmest region was in the morning, along one edge of the moon's disk, making a sharply defined Pac-Man shape, with temperatures around minus 294 degrees Fahrenheit. The rest of the moon was much colder, minus 320 degrees Fahrenheit. A smaller warm spot -- the dot in Pac-Man's mouth -- showed up around (the crater) Herschel, with a temperature around minus 310 degrees Fahrenheit."
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA and the European and Italian Space Agencies.
More information and images are available at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/main/index.html and at http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/index.cfm.