On April 28, 1905 William H. Pickering, who had seven years earlier discovered Phoebe, announced the discovery of a tenth satellite of Saturn, which he promptly named Themis. The photographic plates on which it supposedly appeared, thirteen in all, spanned a period between April 17 and July 8, 1904. However, no other astronomer has ever confirmed Pickering's claim.
Pickering attempted to compute an orbit, which showed a fairly high inclination (39.1° to the ecliptic), fairly large eccentricity (0.23) and a semi-major axis (1,457,000 km) slightly less than that of Hyperion. The period was supposedly 20.85 days, with prograde motion.
Pickering estimated the diameter at 38 miles (61 km), but since he also gave 42 miles (68 km) as the diameter of Phoebe, he was clearly overestimating the albedo; using the modern figure for Phoebe gives Themis a diameter of 200 km.
Oddly, in April 1861, Hermann Goldschmidt had also believed that he had discovered a new satellite of Saturn between Titan and Hyperion, which he called Chiron. Chiron also does not exist (however, the name was used much later for the comet/asteroid 2060 Chiron).
The actual tenth satellite of Saturn (in order of discovery) was Janus, which was discovered in 1966 and confirmed in 1980. Its orbit is far from the supposed orbit of Themis.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”
Posted by M. Christian