Discoveries from Galileo to Voyager

By James L. Elliot and Richard Kerr





Rings recounts one of the most fascinating stories to emerge from our recent exploration of the solar system. In the past decade scientists have learned more about this beautiful astronomical phenomenon than was ever known before. James Elliot played a leading role in the scientific group that discovered the rings of Uranus, and Richard Kerr has covered Voyager's encounters with Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus for Science magazine. Together they capture the excitement of the new discoveries - the first since Galileo observed Saturn's rings in 1610 - while showing the central role serendipity can play in scientific progress.

Copies of the tape that recorded the discovery of the Uranian rings are available from The MIT Press.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262050319 224 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262550130 224 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


  • In their lucid and readable book, Elliot and Kerr describe how the sheer rational power of the human intellect has combined with serendipity, space age technology, and the motivation of professional rivalries to enable scientists to pierce through the superficial beauty of planetary rings and gain a deeper appreciation of how they behave and why they exists.

    Clark R. Chapman

    Research Scientist Planetary Science Institute, Science Applications, Inc.

  • Few areas in modern space exploration have provided more exciting discoveries than planetary rings. The Voyager images of the rings of Saturn have appeared on the front pages of newsmagazines as well as in scientific journals, while the discovery of the dark narrow rings of Uranus provide an equally fascinating story. Now, for the first time, Jim elliot and Richard Kerr provide a book that tells the remarkable story of planetary rings in a manner both authoritative and highly readable. Through their words, we become a part of the process of discovery, sharing in the remarkable hours when the rings of Uranus were discovered from an airborne observatory, or when the Voyager spacecraft skimmed over the awesome rings of Saturn. Although it is written with the lay reader in mind, this volume meets the highest standards of scientific accuracy and can be read with profit by professionals in astronamy and planetary science. I recommen it highly.

    David Morrison

    Acting Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education

  • Rings is an excellent book which both conveys the excitement of scientific discovery and summerizes how new findings fit into our gorwing understanding of planetary rings.

    Jack Lissauer

    Planetary Scientist, NASA-NRC Resident Research Associate

  • This book is a remarkably complete and readable description of one of the most fascinating stories in the history of the exploration of the solar system. Elliot has been the central figure in the study and exploration of the rings of Uranus, and Kerr was one of the most thoughful and lucid science writers to participate in coverage of Voyager encounters with Jupiter and Saturn. They have written a book which can be read with equal pleasure by the specialist and the layman. It captures the excitement of discovery as well as showing the stumbling and erratic paths by which astronomy and other sciences progress.

    Scott Tremaine

    Associate Professor of Physics, MIT