Photo: Percival Lowell sits in the Clark Telescope Dome | Lowell Observatory Archives
March 10, 1977: Rings of Uranus discovered
The Kuiper Airborne Observatory in flight | NASA
The rings of Uranus were discovered by astronomers James L. Elliot and Edward W. Dunham, and software developer Jessica Mink on March 10, 1977. Though British astronomer William Herschel also reported observing rings in 1789, modern astronomers argue that the rings were too faint to be seen using the technology available at the time. The discovery was made using the Kuiper Airborne Observatory (KAO), a highly modified Lockheed C-141A Starlifter jet transport aircraft. The discovery team was using an occultation* of the star SAO 158687 to study Uranus’s atmosphere when they noticed that the star momentarily disappeared from view 5 times before and after the planet eclipsed it, leading them to conclude that Uranus had 5 rings.
*An event that occurs when one object is hidden by another object as it passes through the observer’s view.
– 1781: William Herschel Discovers Uranus
William Herschel | Lemuel Francis Abbott
On March 13, 1781, German-born British astronomer and composer William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus while searching for double star systems. He ...