Washington, March 30 (ANI): An interesting new temperature map of Saturn's tiny moon Mimas has revealed an unexpected hot region that resembles "Pac-Man" eating a dot.
The highest-resolution-yet temperature map and images of the icy moon Mimas was obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.
It has revealed surprising patterns on the surface of the small moon, including unexpected hot regions that resemble "Pac-Man" eating a dot, and striking bands of light and dark in crater walls.
Scientists working with the composite infrared spectrometer, which mapped Mimas' temperatures, expected smoothly varying temperatures peaking in the early afternoon near the equator.
Instead, the warmest region was in the morning, along one edge of the moon's disk, making a sharply defined Pac-Man shape, with temperatures around 92 Kelvin (minus 294 degrees Fahrenheit).
The rest of the moon was much colder, around 77 Kelvin (minus 320 degrees Fahrenheit).
A smaller warm spot - the dot in Pac-Man's mouth - showed up around Herschel, with a temperature around 84 Kelvin (minus 310 degrees Fahrenheit).
The warm spot around Herschel makes sense because tall crater walls (about 5 kilometers, or 3 miles, high) can trap heat inside the crater.
But scientists were completely baffled by the sharp, V-shaped pattern.
"We suspect the temperatures are revealing differences in texture on the surface," said John Spencer, a Cassini composite infrared spectrometer team member based at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
"It's maybe something like the difference between old, dense snow and freshly fallen powder," he added.
Denser ice quickly conducts the heat of the sun away from the surface, keeping it cold during the day.
Powdery ice is more insulating and traps the sun's heat at the surface, so the surface warms up.
"Even if surface texture variations are to blame, scientists are still trying to figure out why there are such sharp boundaries between the regions," Spencer said.
It is possible that the impact that created Herschel Crater melted surface ice and spread water across the moon.
That liquid may have flash-frozen into a hard surface.
Icy spray from the E ring, one of Saturn's outer rings, should also keep Mimas relatively light-colored, but the new visible-light images from the flyby paint a picture of surprising contrasts.
Cassini imaging team scientists didn't expect to see dark streaks trailing down the bright crater walls or a continuous, narrow pile of concentrated dark debris tracing the foot of each wall.
"The pattern may appear because of the way the surface of Mimas ages," said Paul Helfenstein, a Cassini imaging team associate based at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. (ANI)