The Cassini spacecraft in orbit
around Saturn has caught an interesting new view of the tiny moon Mimas.
The probe measured temperature
differences across the object’s surface and produced a map that looks just like
the 1980s Pac-Man video games icon.
Scientists are unsure why Mimas
should display such variations but say it is probably related to the diversity
of textures in the surface materials.
Some textures may retain heat
better than others, they explain.
Mimas is about 250 miles across. It
has a distinctive scar called Herschel Crater which has led many to draw comparisons
with the “Death Star” from the Star Wars movies.
The Cassini team says the creation
of the crater itself might have played a key role in changing conditions across
extensive regions of the moon’s surface.
Cassini is a joint venture between NASA,
the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency (ASI).
Its mission was
recently extended through to 2017.