Mars Moons Orbit

Perhaps inspired by Kepler (and quoting Kepler’s third law of planetary motion), Jonathan Swift’s satire Gulliver’s Travels (1726) refers to two moons in Part 3, Chapter 3 (the “Voyage to Laputa”), in which Laputa’s astronomers are described as having discovered two satellites of Mars orbiting at distances of 3 and 5 Martian diameters with periods of 10 and 21. 5 hours. Phobos and Deimos (both found in 1877, more than a century after Swift’s novel) have actual orbital distances of 1. 4 and 3. 5 Martian diameters, and their respective orbital periods are 7. 66 and 30. 35 hours. In the 20th century, V. G. Perminov, a spacecraft designer of early Soviet Mars and Venus spacecraft, speculated Swift found and deciphered records that Martians left on Earth. However, the view of most astronomers is that Swift was simply employing a common argument of the time, that as the inner planets Venus and Mercury had no satellites, Earth had one and Jupiter had four (known at the time), that Mars by analogy must have two. Furthermore, as they had not yet been discovered, it was reasoned that they must be small and close to Mars. This would lead Swift to making a roughly accurate estimate of their orbital distances and revolution periods. In addition Swift could have been helped in his calculations by his friend, the mathematician John Arbuthnot.