Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/94
84- THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
existence of such a body that we have not yet seen it ; but it ought to serve as an argument to stimulate us to apply our most powerful instruments to the regions around this planet with more frequency and attention than we have hitherto done, and it is possible that our dili- gence may be rewarded with the discovery. The long duration of winter in the polar regions of Mars seems to require a moon to cheer them during the long absence of the sun ; and, if there be none, the inhabitants of those regions must be in a far more dreary condition than the Laplanders and Greenlanders of our globe."
This state of doubt and uncertainty in relation to the question of the existence of Martial moons afforded legitimate game for the satiri- cal writers of the last century. Thus, Jonathan Swift, in his " Gulli- ver's Travels," published about 1727, in giving an account of the ex- traordinary race of abstract philosophers who inhabited the " Floating Island " called Laputa, informs us that " they spend the greater part of their lives in observing the celestial bodies, which they do by the assistance of glasses far excelling ours in goodness ; for, although their largest telescopes do not exceed three feet, they magnify much more than those of one hundred with us, and show the stars with greater clearness. This advantage has enabled them to extend their discov- eries much farther than our astronomers in Europe ; for they have made a catalogue of 10,000 fixed stars, whereas the largest of ours does not contain above one third of that number. They have likewise discovered two lesser stars or satellites, which revolve about Mars ; whereof the innermost is distant from the center of the primary planet exactly three of its diameters, and the outermost five ; the former re- volves in the space of ten hours, and the latter in twenty-one and a half; so that the squares of then* periodical times are very near in the same proportion with the cubes of their distances from the center of Mars ; which evidently shows them to be governed by the same law of gravi- tation that influences the other heavenly bodies."
About twenty-five years after Swift wrote the foregoing, that is in 1752, the celebrated Voltaire (apparently in imitation of " Gulliver's Travels ") cuttingly ridicules the pretensions of the class of rcasonei's who found their conclusions upon analogy. In one of his satirical tales, Micromegas, an imaginary inhabitant of Sirius, is supposed to make a voyage of discovery through the solar system in company with a denizen of Saturn ; they philosophize as they go. Approaching the planet Mars, Micromegas and his companion plainly descried two moons acting as satellites to that body — moons which have certainly escaped the ken of terrestrial astronomers. " I know perfectly well," continues the author of the tale, " that Father Castel " (an astronomer of the time) " will write, and write sufliciently pleasantly, too, against the existence of these two moons ; but I appeal against his decision to logicians, who reason from analogy. These excellent philosophers are perfectly aware how difficult it would be for Mars — a planet so far re-