NASA scores with weird Pac-Man crater on Mars

Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde might want to avoid Mars.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser

You've seen a fish, a cannonball and even Jabba the Hutt on Mars. But have you seen the star of a hit 1980s video arcade game? NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has. 

NASA and the University of Arizona's HiRise team, the group responsible for working with the orbiter's nifty camera, shared a view of an unusual crater on the Red Planet and it sure looks a lot like Pac-Man in full pellet-gobbling mode.   

Enlarge Image

Waka, waka, waka.

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

What we're seeing here is an impact crater with a crescent-shaped barchan sand dune nestled inside. The MRO snapped the image in mid-March and NASA highlighted it this week. 

Barchan dunes are common on Mars, as seen in this MRO image of a field of wormy-looking formations. But this particular crater-and-dune combination of landscape features is out of the ordinary. 

NASA's HiRise team pointed out the likeness to Pac-Man and says it is "a rare configuration, and over the next few tens of thousands of years the sand will be blown out of the crater." Pac-Man will be a super-duper-retro game by then.

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