"Pac-Man" has been spotted on two Saturn moons, Mimas and Tethys
(Photo : NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC/SWRI )
Pac-Man projected himself into the public consciousness in 1980, but he has since graduated to the stars, according to a study published in the journal Icarus.
NASA 's Cassini infrared spectrometer has picked up shapes similar to the profile of the infamous arcade character on Saturn's two moons, Mimas and Tethys. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory first picked up readings of the image on Mimas in 2010, but have only recently recorded data on Tethys that mirrors its sister moon.
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Linda Spilker, a scientist working on the Cassini project, explains: "Finding a new Pac-Man demonstrates the diversity of processes at work in the Saturn system. Future Cassini observations may reveal other new phenomena that will surprise us and help us better understand the evolution of moons in the Saturn system and beyond."
Researchers argue that a siege of high-energy electrons "bombard low latitudes on the side of the moon that faces forward as it orbits around Saturn," reads NASA's official blog. This creates compact ice that resists heat more effectively than other areas on the moon's surface.
Lead author of the study Carly Howett states, "Finding a second Pac-Man in the Saturn system tells us that the processes creating these Pac-Men are more widespread than previously thought. The Saturn system - and even the Jupiter system - could turn out to be a veritable arcade of these characters."
NASA's Mike Flasar adds, "Studies at infrared wavelengths give us a tremendous amount of information about the processes that shape planets and moons. A result like this underscores just how powerful these observations are."