Saturn’s Moon Mimas Looks Like Pac-Man In Infrared

NASA Spacecraft Sees Pac Man On Saturn Moon Mimas
Saturn’s moon Mimas looks like Pac-Man when seen in infrared. This infrared picture was taken by the Cassini space probe.

In an earlier article we have showed you how Saturn’s moon Mimas totally looks like the Death Star from the Star Wars movies. Now it seems that Mimas also looks like Pac-Man from the 1980s video game when seen in infrared.

The picture above has been taken by the composite infrared spectrometer (CIRS) from the Cassini spacecraft, which is the result of the cooperation between NASA and ESA (the European Space Agency).

As the graphic below explains it, normally the temperature distribution on any planet, moon or smaller body should be distributed in circular patterns, with the equatorial region facing the sun being the hottest and the farther we get from that region, the colder it should get. However with Mimas the heat map is nothing like it should be! A Pac-Man shaped region of the moon is much hotter than the rest, except for some minor heat spots corresponding to the Hershel crater (the one that makes Mimas look like the Death Star).

Mimas Temperature Pac Man
A detailed graphic depicting the heat distribution on Mimas.

It still remains a mystery why Mimas looks so odd in infrared, however it is suspected that the huge Hershel crater as well as the difference between the light and dark hemispheres of this moon could have something to do with it.

The difference in texture and albedo between the two hemispheres could explain some of the hotter regions, but not why it has this weird Pac-Man shape with very sharp boundaries between the hot and cold regions. However the minor heat spots corresponding to the Hershel crater are a normal occurrence, since huge craters have been known to trap some heat inside.

Originally published on Apr 3, 2010. Last updated on May 8, 2023.

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Paul Tomaszewski is a science & tech writer as well as a programmer and entrepreneur. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of CosmoBC. He has a degree in computer science from John Abbott College, a bachelor's degree in technology from the Memorial University of Newfoundland, and completed some business and economics classes at Concordia University in Montreal. While in college he was the vice-president of the Astronomy Club. In his spare time he is an amateur astronomer and enjoys reading or watching science-fiction. You can follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.


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