While Saturn might not be as thicc as its celestial neighbor Jupiter, the gas giant remains a cornucopia of unsolved mystery. We still don’t know how old its famous rings are, or how long a day on the planet actually is. But perhaps the most often-overlooked Saturnian mystery is that it has been secretly harboring “kittens” in its F Ring, according to data from NASA’s Cassini.

Of course, these features aren’t actually baby cats — if they were, I would have jetted out of here long ago. These 60-some odd “kittens” are actually baby moons — or moonlets — which form after particles within the ring collide and clump together. These kittens — which were first spotted by researchers from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft back in 2007 — influence the shape of the F ring so that it’s constantly changing its structure.

For some reason, Saturn’s kittens remained under the radar for many years. A spokesperson from NASA tells Inverse that the kittens are suddenly back in the public consciousness after a reporter asked about naming Saturnian features after pets during a post-mission briefing on Sept. 15. According to NASA, the baby moons were named kittens — and even given individual cat names like “Mittens” and “fluffy” — because “they appear to come and go unexpectedly over time and have multiple lives.” Apparently, some dog people weren’t happy about the name change, but were ultimately overruled.

“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.

Article continues below

“These ‘kittens’ show us clumps now forming in Saturn’s F ring, a disk of material like the original protoplanetary disk around our Sun, like when the Earth and the other planets formed 4.5 billion years ago,” he said.

Prometheus and Saturn's F Ring

The great thing about these kittens — besides the obvious — is that they reveal how utterly mysterious Saturn still is, even after Cassini. To be fair, if any planet were secretly serving as a kitty utopia, it would almost certainly be Saturn.

“Saturn’s rings look so serene from a distance, but then when you get up close there is SO MUCH dynamic activity taking place,” Summer Ash, an astrophysicist at Columbia University, told Inverse. “From spiral waves to vertical structure to spokes, and now moonlets! It’s bananas. These moonlets are yet another aspect of Saturn’s rings that shows how little we understand about the system, even after a 13-year mission at the planet.”


If you liked this article, check out this video of what it looks like to land on an alien moon.

Photos via NASA

On Monday, scientists revealed the first images of a human inside the world’s newest total body scanner, called EXPLORER. The name is fitting because this scanner really leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination, tracking the way drugs and disease progress through every nook and cranny in the body.

Designed by biomedical engineering professor Simon Cherry, Ph.D., and biophysicist Ramsey Badawi, Ph.D. at University of California, Davis, this scanner produces images that look like a hybrid between a PET scan (which is often used to find tumors) and an X-ray, all in ghostly black and white. But what’s interesting about EXPLORER, which will be officially unveiled at the Radiological Society of North America meeting on November 24th, isn’t that it produces detailed images of tissues or bones. Cherry tells Inverse that it can also create 3D movies showing where certain drugs may end up in the body.

While we all love sleeping there’s nothing more disgusting that what you’re sleeping in. Your sheets, by all conventional standards, are hosts for thousands of gross bacteria, fungi, sweat and bodily excretions that you sleep in every night. Worst part is that most people don’t wash their sheets nearly enough. While there are some that throw their dirty sheets in the laudry weekly, as recommended, most people can go weeks without it. They are lying in filth on a nightly basis and doing nothing about it.

NASA wants to make the Clavius Base seen in 2001: A Space Odyssey real (or at least something close to it). The space agency recently published a marketing video on November 16 to hype up its ambitious plan to construct both orbiting and stationary lunar outposts.

The National Space Exploration Campaign Report proposes getting humans back on the moon “no later than 2029”, in compliance with the White House’s Space Policy Directive 1. The document states that an orbital lunar depot — called Gateway — along with advanced landers will be fully operational by 2028. NASA believes this infrastructure is a necessary stepping stone toward deeper space exploration.

SpaceX isn’t shy about showing off its rocket recovery capabilities. Most of Falcon 9’s launches culminate with the first stage booster gracefully touching back down on a drone ship. But what isn’t as well-documented is the three-day-long process of getting the rocket from the ocean back to port and onto land. So hobbyist photographer and space enthusiast Stephen Marr decided to film a time-lapse of the process.

Elon Musk wants to send humans to Mars, and it could happen as soon as 2024. The SpaceX CEO has outlined a plan to get people to the red planet, with bold visions of refueling rockets to “planet hop” and explore the furthest reaches of the solar system.

Many plans for a Mars settlement expect a community in matters of decades. The United Arab Emirates aims for a city of 600,000 by 2117. Astrobiologist Lewis Dartnell told Inverse last month that “while the first human mission to land on Mars will likely take place in the next two decades, it will probably be more like 50-100 years before substantial numbers of people have moved to Mars to live in self-sustaining towns.”