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No. 76: Jul-Aug 1991

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Will earth's rings return?

"In the past, the Earth had a ring system just like Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, according to a Danish astronomer. He has gone so far as to say that our planet boasted rings on 16 separate occasions in the past 2800 years.

"Kaare Rasmussen of the National Museum in Copenhagen carried out a survey of all reports of meteorite falls, fireballs and showers of shooting stars from 800 BC to 1750 AD. He then carried out a statistical analysis of the data. He discovered that there were many distinct periods of intense activity."

Rasmussen found that the active periods, during which he believes a ring existed about the earth, began with a peak of high meteoritic activity as the ring formed, as a consequence of the earth's capture of a comet or asteroid. This was typically followed by a decrease of activity indicating ring stability. Finally, the ring broke up as its particles were decelerated by the earth's upper atmosphere, leading to another peak of activity. Thus, the plot of me-teorite activity is U-shaped, as in the figure, with the bottom of the U a bit higher than the normal background. (Gribbin, John; "Will the Earth's Rings Return?" New Scientist, p. 19, April 6, 1991.)

From Science Frontiers #76, JUL-AUG 1991. 1991-2000 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