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No. 49: Jan-Feb 1987

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Neptune's strange necklace

The puzzling occultations of stars by Neptune have led scientists to postulate that discontinuous rings of debris rotate around the planet. (SF#38 and #40) But, given the number of recent failures to detect the ring at all, astronomers have been reduced to thinking about even weirder configurations of matter. The most recent model, by P. Goldreich et al, envisions a necklace of arcs in orbit, as illustrated. They calculate that the resonant effects of a yet undiscovered satellite in an inclined orbit could produce this strange pattern.

(Murray, Carl d.; "Arcs around Neptune," Nature, 324:209, 1986.)

Comment. Voyager 2 will encounter Neptune in 1989. Hopefully, it will clear things up ringwise. Or, it may photograph something even more exotic, like some 2001-like monoliths in orbit!!

Possible configuration for ring and arcs and a confining satellite in orbit around Neptune A possible configuration for ring and arcs and a confining satellite in orbit around Neptune, according to the theory of Goldreich et al. Radial variations are exagerated. (Would any astronomer, even 10 years ago, have countenanced such a spectacle in the Solar System?)

From Science Frontiers #49, JAN-FEB 1987. 1987-2000 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