NPR : News

Infrared Views Of Two Of Saturn's Moons Reveal 'Pac-Man' Features

For the second time in two years, Cassini has spotted a Pac-Man-like feature on one of Saturn's moons.

As NASA puts it, it is a veritable "gamers' paradise." Just take a look:

What you're seeing there is the infrared image taken of the moon Mimas in 2010 and the other is of the moon Tethys taken this year. The red and yellow areas show the warmest places on the moon.

"Finding a second Pac-Man in the Saturn system tells us that the processes creating these Pac-Men are more widespread than previously thought," said Carly Howett, the lead author of a paper explaining the findings, which was published in the journal Icarus.

As NASA writes in a press release, it's an odd shape, but scientists think they know how it came to be.

NASA reports:

"Scientists theorize that the Pac-Man thermal shape on the Saturnian moons occurs because of the way high-energy electrons bombard low latitudes on the side of the moon that faces forward as it orbits around Saturn. The bombardment turns that part of the fluffy surface into hard-packed ice. As a result, the altered surface does not heat as rapidly in the sunshine or cool down as quickly at night as the rest of the surface, similar to how a boardwalk at the beach feels cooler during the day but warmer at night than the nearby sand. Finding another Pac-Man on Tethys confirms that high-energy electrons can dramatically alter the surface of an icy moon. Also, because the altered region on Tethys, unlike on Mimas, is also bombarded by icy particles from Enceladus' plumes, it implies the surface alteration is occurring more quickly than its recoating by plume particles."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit


New Head For Jesus Statue Is, Uh, Turning Heads In Canada

Last year, baby Jesus' head went missing from a statue at a church in northern Ontario. A local artist volunteered to help and sculpted a terra cotta substitute that has caused some consternation.

In Jerusalem And West Bank, Nutella Cafes Offer A Sweet Refuge

Palestinians are flocking to a string of Nutella cafés that have popped up in the region. The cafes offer a welcome refuge from the realities of living in a conflict zone.

Clinton Campaigns In Ohio Where She's In A Virtual Tie With Trump

Hillary Clinton campaigned in Ohio Friday.

'Dot': How A Little Girl Uses Technology To Interact With The World

NPR's Kelly McEvers talks to former Silicon Valley tycoon Randi Zuckerberg about her new animated children's television show, 'Dot.'

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.