Cassini reveals Saturn’s kittens

by Matthew Cobb

The Cassini probe may have plummeted into Saturn’s gassy depths, becoming part of the planet it had observed so long, but it still keeps giving science. As Rae Paoletta noted on Inverse a couple of days ago, Cassini’s data reveal the presence of kittens in the F ring of Saturn.

Sadly these aren’t real space kittens, but lumps of rock or moonless, first noted in 2007, which continually pull and distort the F ring, making it continually change shape. According to Rae, NASA gave the moonlets cat names like Mittens and Fluffy because “they appear to come and go unexpectedly over time and have multiple lives.”

Rae writes:

“This was an appropriate nomenclature for temporary features, and I favor using feline names in other applicable situations,” Larry Esposito, principal investigator of the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) experiment on the Cassini, tells Inverse. Esposito — who is credited with discovering Saturn’s F Ring back in 1979 — was chiefly in charge of naming the kittens.

All this was drawn to my attention by this tw**t from science writer Corey Powell:

JAC: Read more about Saturn’s “kittens” here. And here’s an explanatory video:


  1. Posted September 29, 2017 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  2. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted September 29, 2017 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    As long as they’re not Kzinti in hiding.

  3. David Harper
    Posted September 29, 2017 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    I’m reminded of the discovery in the late 1990s of several small moonlets of Uranus by astronomers led by Cornell professor Phil Nicholson. Phil joked about naming one of them after his cat Squeaker, and the Cornell public relations team even mocked up an image for the press release showing Squeaker (the cat) orbiting Uranus. In the end, the International Astronomical Union approved more conventional names taken from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”.

%d bloggers like this: