spaceSpace and Physics

Bits Of Saturn's Rings Are Being Named After Kittens


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer

Vadim Sadovski/Shutterstock

While reports of the apocalypse were greatly exaggerated, you’d be forgiven for fearing the worst. We’ve got two hot-headed leaders going, uh, head to head, the rise of far-right nationalism, and the ever-increasing threat of climate change.

Fortunately, we’re here with some respite for you. Kittens! Glorious, glorious kittens. And not just any felines, but space kittens, which are obviously the best kind.


Yes, in a rather adorable story picked up by, some of Saturn’s ring features are being named after kittens. These include things like Butterball, Fluffy, Garfield, Socks, and Whiskers. Aww.

The features are located in Saturn’s F ring, towards the edge of the main bulk of its rings. Observations by Cassini spotted clumps and moonlets, or baby moons, which Cassini scientists have been unofficially naming after kittens.

For example, one particular feature called Alpha Leonis Rev 9 has been given an easier to remember name: Mittens.

Here's an artist's impression of "Mittens", the largest object that's center-right. NASA/JPL/University of Colorado

These names aren’t necessarily recent, mind. Mittens was seen by Cassini back in December 2007, spotted when a distant star passed behind the small object, blocking its light.


Normally, naming procedures for space objects are pretty strict. Pluto has only recently had some of its major features named, while the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has just begun naming worlds beyond the Solar System.

Most of these kitten-sized features in Saturn’s rings, however, are unlikely ever to be seen again, more so now that the Cassini mission has come to an end. So this is really just an example of astronomers having a bit of fun. And who doesn’t need that right now?

Here are some more kittens. Tiplyashina Evgeniya/Shutterstock


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