Themis (hypothetical moon)
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.
There is also an asteroid named 24 Themis.
Themis in fiction
- Philip Latham (pen-name of Robert S. Richardson), in his novel Missing Men of Saturn, has Themis collide with Titan, "getting rid of the little nuisiance once and for all", according to the introduction.
- John Varley's science fiction novel Titan is set aboard an expedition to Saturn. As they approach the planet and prepare to enter orbit, the astronomer onboard discovers a new moon. At first she believes she has recovered Pickering's lost moon, so she names it Themis.
- Robert Anton Wilson's novel Schrödinger's Cat trilogy makes frequent reference to Pickering's Moon as a satellite that revolves the "wrong way" around its primary.
- (no references to Goldschmidt's publication found)
- Harvard College Observatory Bulletin No. 189, p.1 (April 1905)
- Annals of Harvard College Observatory, vol. 53, no. 9, pp. 173-185 (1905)
- AnHar 53 (1905) 173
- AnHar 61 (1908) 86
- Obs 28 (1905) 12:433
- PASP 18 (1906) 96
- Obs 31 (1908) 8:295
- MNRAS 69 (1909) 215
- Obs 32 (1909) 3:79