As seen on our sister site, SCI FI Wire, NASA's discovered something lurking out in the depths of space. Thanks to the massive, 81-mile-wide Herschel impact crater marring the surface of Mimas, one of Saturn's moons, the satellite is often compared to the Death Star from Star Wars. Now, it's got another geeky claim to fame: it looks just like Pac-Man in infrared.
The find surprised NASA as the agency was using its Cassini spacecraft to capture highest resolution temperature scans of Mimas. "Other moons usually grab the spotlight, but it turns out Mimas is more bizarre than we thought it was," remarked Cassini scientist Linda Spilker in a release by NASA. She, like her other team members, expected to see "smoothly varying temperatures" and instead found "a sharply defined Pac-Man shape, with temperatures around 92 Kelvin" (or -294°). Another -310° "hot" spot, found inside the Herschel crater, resembled the kind of pellet Pac-Man eats.
So, why the weird temperature map? "Even though we can't explain the observed pattern of surface temperatures on Mimas, the giant Herschel crater is a leading suspect," Dr. Mike Flasar, a principal investigator from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. "We really would like to see if there is also an anomalous temperature pattern on the other side of Herschel, which has not been observed so closely."
"We suspect the temperatures are revealing differences in texture on the surface," added John Spencer, another researcher on the case. "It's maybe something like the difference between old, dense snow and freshly fallen powder."
Really, who cares what it is? Either we've got the Death Star out there, or a Pac-Man the size of one. How come NASA isn't working to blow this thing up? We already know the agency is into firing rockets at moons.