The scientific significance of planetary ring systems

Part of the Springer Praxis Books book series (PRAXIS)


Italian astronomer Galileo announced with this anagram sent to his patron astronomer Johannes Kepler on July 30, 1610, that (unscrambling his anagram), “ALTIS-SIMUM PLANETAM TERGEMINUM OBSERVAVI.” Roughly interpreted out of the Latin, Galileo was telling his colleague, “I have observed that the most distant of planets has a triple form.” (Note that U and V are interchangeable in Latin.) Of course, Kepler did not understand what Galileo was announcing until Galileo himself later unscrambled the anagram. This was a practice used by early astronomers to lay claim to a new discovery without divulging its nature until the results were ready for publication. Galileo had been the first to observe the rings of Saturn, although their basic particulate nature (Figure 1.1) was not recognized until the middle of the 19th Century.


Solar System Ring System Giant Planet Kuiper Belt Planetary Ring 
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1.10 Notes and References

  1. [1]
    Maxwell, J. C, 1859, On the Stability of the Motions of Saturn’s Rings, Cambridge and London: MacMillan and Company. Reprinted in Scientific Papers of James Clerk Maxwell, Vol. 1, Cambridge University Press, 1890.Google Scholar
  2. [2]
    Keeler, J. E., 1895, “Spectroscopic proof of the meteroitic constitution of Saturn’s rings”, Astrophysical Journal 1, 416–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. [3]
    Anderson, John D., 1997, “Gravitation”, in Encyclopedia of Planetary Sciences, edited by Shirley and Fairbridge, pp. 283–287.Google Scholar
  4. [4]
    De Pater, Imke, Showalter, Mark R., Burns, Joseph A., Nicholson, Philip D., Liu, Michael C., Hamilton, Douglas P., Graham, James R., 1999, “Keck infrared observations of Jupiter’s ring system near Earth’s 1997 ring plane crossing”, Icarus 138, 214–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. [5]
    Showalter, Mark R., 1991, “Visual detection of 1981S13, Saturn’s eighteenth satellite, and its role in the Encke gap”, Nature 351, 709–713.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

1.11 Bibliography

  1. Burns, Joseph A., 1999, “Planetary rings”, in The New Solar System (Fourth Edition), edited by Beatty, Petersen, and Chaikin, pp. 221–240.Google Scholar
  2. Burns, Joseph A., Hamilton, Douglas P., Showalter, Mark R., 2003, “Bejeweled worlds”, Scientific American 13, 74–83 (special edition of Scientific American).Google Scholar
  3. Horn, Linda J., 1997, “Planetary ring”, in Encyclopedia of Planetary Sciences, edited by Shirley and Fairbridge, pp. 602–608.Google Scholar
  4. Spilker, Linda J., editor, 1997, “Those magnificent rings”, in Passage to a Ringed World, The Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn and Titan, NASA SP-533, pp. 41–52.Google Scholar
  5. Time-Life Books, 1991, “Mysterious ring worlds”, in Moons and Rings (part of a series entitled “Voyage Through the Universe”), pp. 92–133.Google Scholar

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© Praxis Publishing Ltd, Chichester, UK 2007

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