“An Astronomical Blunder. — Professor Waltemath of Hamburg recently announced through a private circular that he had discovered a second moon to our earth. The contents of the circular were the basis of sensational articles in leading newspapers… He also quotes descriptions of strange objects in the sky seen at various times since the sixteenth century, which his calculations show were probably this second moon.”
Georg Waltemath made an extraordinary claim: that the Earth had a second moon. It was supposed that it was much smaller and dimmer than the known moon. He calculated that this object orbited the Earth every 119 days and would pass between the Earth and Sun, on average, every 177 days. He predicted that on February 3rd of 1898 it would be visible in silhouette as it moved across the disk of the Sun, an event known as an astronomical transit.
Winslow Upton was skeptical of the existence of this long unnoticed moon, but nonetheless attempted to observe it.
According to Professor Winslow Upton, who is at the head of the Ladd Observatory connected with Brown University: “The method which is used to calculate the orbit of the supposed moon is not given, but the results stated are unfortunately opposed by strong negative considerations. If the body were opaque, even if of small reflecting power, it would appear as a black body when crossing the sun, and on account of its large size (more than 2′) would be a very conspicuous object. It would have been detected many years ago and its existence positively determined. The sun has been observed for many years on every clear day at certain observatories, and in recent years has been regularly photographed, and no object has been seen of this description which was not a sun spot. A satellite would have been detected by its rapid motion, as it would cross the sun in a few hours. It is not possible to explain all the strange appearances in the sky which have been noted from time to time, but the suggested explanation of a second moon does not accord with some of the descriptions as well as the supposition of a comet would do.”
On February 3 a series of observations were taken under Professor Upton’s direction, which confirmed his negative views as to the existence of the alleged satellite.
– Winslow Upton, as quoted in The Cyclopedic Review of Current History.
Waltemath was undeterred by the negative results of his remarkable prediction: he later claimed the existence of a third moon orbiting the Earth. While it is possible that a small object might be captured, at least temporarily, by the Earth’s gravity and become a “moon” for a short time there has been no evidence in the past century to support the assertions of Waltemath or others that our planet has another moon.