Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pac Man Moon

I'm one of those people who is fascinated by astronomy but who never actually looks through a telescope at the sky above. But I do read the occasional astronomy news blog or two. One I like to scroll through on occasion is Universe Today, where I found this one.

I'll bet you didn't know that the Death Star is located in orbit around Saturn. Yeah, alright, so its just the moon Mimas, but it is down right weird how much it looks like the Death Star. The small moon has a giant crater (the Herschel Crater) that gives it that uniquely Death Star quality.

A recently flyby of Cassini of the moon Mimas generated some new temperature maps of its surface. These temperature maps reveal curious hot regions in/on the moon - hot regions that look just like Pac Man eating the Herschel Crater. These hot regions average around 92 Kelvin (-294 degrees Fahrenheit) as opposed to the cooler regions that are about 77 Kelvin (-320 degrees Fahrenheit). Cassini scientists believe that these temperature regions may be related to the differences in surface textures and how those textures retain or lose heat. It could also be due to ice (and its evaporative and reflective properties) spread across the surface upon the formation of the Herschel Crater. Alternatively, it could be due to how the moon ages and the accumulation of minerals and various particles.

As with most of the cool things in science, more study is needed.

Check out the story here: http://www.universetoday.com/2010/03/29/pacman-eats-the-death-star/#more-61205
and some really neat images of this discovery here: http://www.ciclops.org/view_event/132/Closest_Views_of_Cratered_Mimas?js=1
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