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No. 40: Jul-Aug 1985

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Neptune's arcs: embryonic moons?

The publicity given to the 1984 observations of possible discontinuous rings around Neptune (SF#38) have brought to light two other enigmatic observations. The 1981 sighting of a "third satellite" of Neptune have now been interpreted as still another discontinuous ring at a different radius. A third discontinuous ring seems to be indicated by the reanalysis of some 1968 occultation data. Astronomer Bill Hibbard, at the University of Arizona, speculates that the three separate arcs of material orbiting Neptune are "trying to decide whether to become a satellite."

(Hecht, Jeff, and Henbest, Nigel; "Neptune's Arcs -- A Satellite in Formation?" New Scientist, p. 19, Apil 25, 1985.)

Comment. If the debris around Neptune is just now accreting into satellites and Saturn's rings really do have youthful features (SF#39), one has to consider some disquieting possibilities:

(1) Saturn and Neptune have been recently "disturbed," or (2) The entire solar system is not as old as the conventional scenario demands.

From Science Frontiers #40, JUL-AUG 1985. 1985-2000 William R. Corliss