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No. 38: Mar-Apr 1985

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Neptune's incomplete ring

When the star SAO 186001 had a "close" encounter with Neptune on July 22, 1984, a number of astronomers were watching it carefully to see its light was diminished by an encircling, Saturn-like ring of particles surrounding Neptune. The ring system of Uranus was discovered by studies of similar stellar occultations. Sure enough, astronomers at the European Southern Observatory, in Chile, and the Cerro Tololo Observatory, also in Chile 90 kilometers away, detected a 1-second, 35% reduction in the star's light at the same instant. These data indicate the presence of an object 10-20 kilometers wide -- hardly an undicovered satellite, but possibly a ring. But given the geometry shown, there should have been two occultations, but only the one on the right was registered. Speculation is now rife that Neptune has a partial ring or a grotesquely twisted one.

(Eberhart, J.; "Signs of a Puzzling Ring around Neptune," Science News, 127:37, 1985.)

Comment. Of course the geometry of the ring could have been such that the star was tangent at one point. It should also be noted that modern astronomers have always laughed off the 1846-1847 observations of a Neptunian ring by W. Lassell and J. Challis!

From Science Frontiers #38, MAR-APR 1985. 1985-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987