Does The Earth Have "One" Or "Three" Moons?

The earth has only one natural satellite.
The earth has only one natural satellite.

Many planets have a moon that orbits around it. Jupiter has the most known moons at 79, while Mercury and Venus have no moon. By definition, a moon is an astronomical object that orbits another body in the solar system, a planet or a minor planet. In the case of Earth, there is only one known moon, which is simply called “The Moon.” However, there have been speculations for at least half a century that there could be two other moons orbiting the earth as well.


All the speculation began back in 1846 when Frédéric Petit, a French astronomer, claimed that he had sighted a second moon orbiting the earth. However, his fellow astronomers quickly dismissed his theories about the object. Years later, Dr. Georg Waltemath announced that he had discovered a system of moons orbiting the earth as well. According to him, his research was inspired by a theory that the orbit of the known moon was being affected by something. Just like the first claim, Georg’s was dismissed for a lack of supporting scientific data. To compound to his problems, he wrongly predicted that the moon would appear in February 1898.

The above two cases simply show some of the major claims in the past. However, there have been other similar claims from other scientists in the course of history. In modern times, these claims have come from astronomers like Walter Gornold (1918) and John Bargby (the 1960s).

The Modern Take

Modern science agrees that there are small bodies orbiting the earth even though temporarily. An example of such an object is the object named 2006 RH120, which, as the name suggests, orbited the earth between 2006 and 2007. Later on, in 2011, a theory was formulated that could possibly explain what the previous astronomers claimed to see. The theory was proposed by planetary scientists Martin Jutzi and Erik Asphaug. According to the theory, it is possible that the earth had a second moon some four billion years ago. Further, the theory states that the moon impacted the current moon, which led to an increase in the size of the present moon during its formation. The moon is thought to be around 4.63 billion years old.

Hidden Moons of the Earth

Last year, in 2018, there were some more revelations that could lend even more credit to the previous claims of the previous astronomers. There was a confirmation of two dust clouds orbiting the earth at points L4 and L5. The confirmation was made by Hungarian astronomers who managed to get pictures of the clouds some 250,000 miles away. The distance of the earth to the moon is roughly the same.

Each cloud is about nine times as wide as the earth. While the clouds are massive, the particles making them up are actually about one micrometer in width. The Hungarians theorized that the objects were missed before because of the darkness around them. In addition, the particles only reflect the light faintly. For this reason, they were given the name “hidden moons" even though they are not actually moons. Possibly, they were moons in the past. However, currently, the earth has only one moon.


More in Environment