Friday, March 11, 2011

In memory of astronomer James Elliott

When asked, I often say Carl Sagan (COSMOS) and Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek) influenced me most to become an astronomer. However, my first astronomy memory is cutting out the New York Times article describing the discovery of the rings of Uranus to bring to school. (I think I was in 1st or 2nd grade.) Today I see that astronomer James Elliott, who made that discovery, has died:

In 1977, using a telescope in an airplane, Dr. Elliot led a team of Cornell University scientists to observe the planet Uranus when it passed between Earth and a star. Flying at night over a patch of the Indian Ocean where Uranus’s shadow was to be cast, he had the foresight to turn on his equipment more than a half-hour early. This allowed him to record a series of slight dimmings that provided the first evidence of Uranus’s rings.

I never met him nor could I have told you his name before tonight, but his work was inspirational to me.

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