Any child of the 80s will have fond memories of standing in the arcade playing Pac-Man or gobbling up little power pellets on their Atari at home. Astronomers have now discovered infrared Pac-Man on two of Saturn’s moons. I particularly like the infrared Pac-Man discovered on Mimas.
As you can see in the image, the IR Pac-Man appears to be getting ready to gobble up a giant crater power pellet. These infrared images were captured using NASA’s Cassini infrared spectrometer. The second moon showing a Pac-Man-like infrared signature is Tethys.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory workers first saw the Pac-Man image on the moon Mimas in 2010, but only recently discovered a similar infrared image on Tethys. The scientists believe the phenomenon that creates the Pac-Man images on the surface of the moon has to do with high-energy electrons that strike the moons at low latitudes on the side of the moon facing forward as it orbits around Saturn. The scientists believe that this phenomenon creates compacted ice that resists heat more effectively than on other areas of the moon’s surface.
The scientists also report that discovery of a Pac-Man image on Tethys has proven that the processes that create the images are more widespread than they previously believed. The scientists believe that more Pac-Man infrared images can be discovered on moons orbiting Saturn and possibly on the moons orbiting other planets in the solar system.
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.”