Cosmic Kittens: Saturn Features Get Feline Names

//Cosmic Kittens: Saturn Features Get Feline Names

Cosmic Kittens: Saturn Features Get Feline Names

Credit:space.com

If you know anything about Saturn, you likely know that it is a world surrounded by rings.

Saturn’s kittens are a group of little clumps and baby moons, or moonlets, that occupy the world’s F ring. Much like the rest of Saturn’s rings, this thin outer ring is composed of countless particles which range in size. When enough of these particles bump into one another and stick together, they aggregate into larger clumps — and become qualified for a kitty title.




Up to now, the list of Saturn’s kitty titles includes several classics, like Fluffy, Garfield, Socks and Whiskers. These are unofficial nicknames for more-complicated (and less cute) official names such as “Alpha Leonis Rev 9″ (aka, Mittens).

The technical names for these attributes come from events known as stellar occultations, during which Cassini was able to discover the small clumps.

Observing how light behaves as it moves through the particles in Saturn’s translucent rings may show opaque clumps which Cassini’s ordinary cameras could not solve,” Larry Esposito, a Cassini scientist responsible for discovering and naming the kittens, told Space.com. “The cameras are not good enough to find the features we are discovering, except possibly the very largest ones,” he said.

Esposito is the principal investigator for Cassini’s Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) experiment, which detected over 150 different stellar occultations in Saturn’s rings during the spacecraft’s 13 years in Saturn.

Not only has Esposito discovered over 60 kittens in Saturn’s F ring with the UVIS instrument, but he really discovered the whole ring back in 1979 as a member of the imaging team for NASA’s Pioneer 11 spacecraft. The planetary ring specialist now teaches in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, where a number of his graduate students also get involved in the naming of Saturn’s kittens while writing research papers.

Esposito explained that during a stellar occultation, “We use the flickering of light to gauge the structure in the rings just like you were in your own porch watching a car drive by at night where the springs go beyond the picket fence. The headlights would blink off and on, and then you could tell how many pickets there were and how wide they were.” Likewise, the flickering of light passing through the rings shows information about what is in the rings.

If you know anything about Saturn, you likely know that it is a world surrounded by rings.




These features are not really young cats, but Cassini scientists have been naming them after kittens, mostly just for fun.

Saturn’s kittens are a group of little clumps and baby moons, or moonlets, that occupy the world’s F ring. Much like the rest of Saturn’s rings, this thin outer ring is composed of countless particles which range in size. When enough of these particles bump into one another and stick together, they aggregate into larger clumps — and become qualified for a kitty name. [Pictures: Saturn’s Glorious Rings Up Close]

Up to now, the list of Saturn’s kitty titles includes several classics, like Fluffy, Garfield, Socks and Whiskers. These are unofficial nicknames for more-complicated (and less cute) official names such as “Alpha Leonis Rev 9” (aka, Mittens).

The technical names for these attributes come from events known as stellar occultations, during which Cassini was able to discover the small clumps.

This cartoon depicts the view from Cassini through the star occultation that detected “Mittens,” a moonlet in Saturn’s F ring.
Observing how light behaves as it moves through the particles in Saturn’s translucent rings may show opaque clumps which Cassini’s ordinary cameras could not solve,” Larry Esposito, a Cassini scientist responsible for discovering and naming the kittens, told Space.com. “The cameras are not good enough to find the features we are discovering, except possibly the very largest ones,” he said.

Esposito is the principal investigator for Cassini’s Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) experiment, which detected over 150 different stellar occultations in Saturn’s rings during the spacecraft’s 13 years in Saturn.

Not only has Esposito discovered over 60 kittens in Saturn’s F ring with the UVIS instrument, but he really discovered the whole ring back in 1979 as a member of the imaging team for NASA’s Pioneer 11 spacecraft. The planetary ring specialist now teaches in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, where a number of his graduate students also get involved in the naming of Saturn’s kittens while writing research papers.

Esposito explained that during a stellar occultation, “We use the flickering of light to gauge the structure in the rings just like you were in your porch watching a car drive by at night where the headlights go beyond the picket fence. The headlights would blink off and on, and then you could tell how many pickets there were and how wide they were.” Likewise, the flickering of light passing through the rings shows information about what is in the rings

“Unlike pickets, Saturn’s rings aren’t totally opaque,” Esposito said. “You could tell how much light went through at every moment and use this to ascertain the quantity of material at that place in Saturn’s rings.” These clumps vary in size from approximately 72 feet to 2.3 kilometers (22 meters to 3.7 km). Esposito and his colleagues have estimated that Saturn’s F ring comprises about 15,000 Mittens-size clumps, and Mittens steps about 0.4 miles (600 m) across.

Since the particles in the ring are constantly colliding, breaking apart and sticking together, Esposito explained that it is possible a few of Saturn’s named kittens may break apart into smaller kittens or start sticking together like a pile of wolves.




If you know anything about Saturn, you likely know that it is a world surrounded by rings.

These features are not really young cats, but Cassini scientists have been naming them after kittens, mostly just for fun.

Saturn’s kittens are a group of little clumps and baby moons, or moonlets, that occupy the world’s F ring. Much like the rest of Saturn’s rings, this thin outer ring is composed of countless particles which range in size. When enough of these particles bump into one another and stick together, they aggregate into larger clumps — and become qualified for a kitty name. [Pictures: Saturn’s Glorious Rings Up Close]

Up to now, the list of Saturn’s kitty titles includes several classics, like Fluffy, Garfield, Socks and Whiskers. These are unofficial nicknames for more-complicated (and less cute) official names such as “Alpha Leonis Rev 9” (aka, Mittens).

The technical names for these attributes come from events known as stellar occultations, during which Cassini was able to discover the small clumps.

This cartoon depicts the view from Cassini through the star occultation that detected “Mittens,” a moonlet in Saturn’s F ring.
Observing how light behaves as it moves through the particles in Saturn’s translucent rings may show opaque clumps which Cassini’s ordinary cameras could not solve,” Larry Esposito, a Cassini scientist responsible for discovering and naming the kittens, told Space.com. “The cameras are not good enough to find the features we are discovering, except possibly the very largest ones,” he said.

Esposito is the principal investigator for Cassini’s Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) experiment, which detected over 150 different stellar occultations in Saturn’s rings during the spacecraft’s 13 years in Saturn.

Not only has Esposito discovered over 60 kittens in Saturn’s F ring with the UVIS instrument, but he really discovered the whole ring back in 1979 as a member of the imaging team for NASA’s Pioneer 11 spacecraft. The planetary ring specialist now teaches in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, where a number of his graduate students also get involved in the naming of Saturn’s kittens while writing research papers.

Esposito explained that during a stellar occultation, “We use the flickering of light to gauge the structure in the rings just like you were in your porch watching a car drive by at night where the headlights go beyond the picket fence. The headlights would blink off and on, and then you could tell how many pickets there were and how wide they were.” Likewise, the flickering of light passing through the rings shows information about what is in the rings.

This cute graph shows the typical optical depth, a measurement of opacity, of Saturn’s F ring. The spike suggests an opaque clump from the otherwise-translucent ring. Cassini scientists nicknamed these attributes “kittens.”
“Unlike pickets, Saturn’s rings aren’t totally opaque,” Esposito said. “You could tell how much light went through at every moment and use this to ascertain the quantity of material at that place in Saturn’s rings.” These clumps vary in size from approximately 72 feet to 2.3 kilometers (22 meters to 3.7 km). Esposito and his colleagues have estimated that Saturn’s F ring comprises about 15,000 Mittens-size clumps, and Mittens steps about 0.4 miles (600 m) across.

Since the particles in the ring are constantly colliding, breaking apart and sticking together, Esposito explained that it is possible a few of Saturn’s named kittens may break apart into smaller kittens or start sticking together like a pile of wolves.

“Most of these clumps are passing. They come and go, and they are small, but a number of them get larger,” and they may develop enough to finally clear a gap through the ring, at which point they could be categorized as real moons, he clarified.

However, keeping track of these kittens over the years is a little of an impossible job, he said. For one, there is not a spacecraft at Saturn to keep watching the stellar occultations. And even if there were, every kitty sighting is “so infrequent that we never see them again,” he said.

Even if scientists did finally see one of Esposito’s kittens with another spacecraft in the future, researchers might not have the ability to identify them anymore after all the crashes those kittens would undergo in the years between each observation, he clarified.




Even though it would be almost impossible to observe the identical kitty double, Esposito and his staff are still analyzing and naming Saturn’s kittens. “I think this says something about the social character and comedy of the science team,” Esposito said. In actuality, he said that the Cassini team is full of cat lovers — and a couple of dog lovers who “resisted” these idiotic cat names.

Credit:- https://Space.com

By | 2017-09-26T13:33:40+00:00 September 26th, 2017|space|Comments Off on Cosmic Kittens: Saturn Features Get Feline Names

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