'Pac-Man' in Saturn moon Tethys is a repeat performance

"Pac-Man" features on Mimas and Tethys Saturn's moons Mimas (left) and Tethys are now both known to exhibit the curious temperature patterns

Related Stories

Astronomers have seen that the temperature of Saturn's moon Tethys has hotter regions uncannily like the 1980s arcade game character Pac-Man.

A similar feature was spotted in 2010 on Mimas, another Saturnian moon.

A report in Icarus suggests the effect is due to high-energy electrons bombarding the sides of the moons that face their direction of orbital travel.

That compacts the surfaces to a hard, icy texture that does not heat or cool as rapidly as the unaffected surface.

Thermal images of both moons were obtained by the Cassini-Huygens mission, launched in 1997 to study the Saturn system in detail.

The temperatures seen by the spacecraft are distinctly chilly - the warmest parts of Tethys were at - 183C, but inside the "mouth" of the Pac-Man shape it was 15C cooler still.

At the time of the finding of the first Pac-Man shape on Mimas, scientists were unsure what might be the cause, theorising that differing surface textures probably played a role.

The existence of another such shape nearby has cemented the idea that fast-moving electrons are responsible.

"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, of the Southwest Research Institute in Texas and lead author of the study.

"The Saturn system - and even the Jupiter system - could turn out to be a veritable arcade of these characters," she said.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Science & Environment stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

  • Martin Gardner as a young manThink hard

    Was this man the world's greatest puzzle master?


  • Carved pumpkinTrick or treat

    What did a riot at a pumpkin festival show about race in US?


  • A woman puts on a surgical mask during hospital Ebola training in Alabama.'Dark continent'

    Is prejudice fuelling Ebola outbreak hysteria in the US?


  • Oscar de la Renta and Oprah WinfreyIn pictures

    The life and work of Oscar de la Renta


BBC Future

(Getty Images)

‘Why I want to die at 75’

The folly of aiming for ever-longer life Read more...

Programmes

  • Smart glassesClick Watch

    Smart spectacles go into battle – the prototypes looking to take on Google Glass

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.