By Plummer H. C. 1875
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Extra resources for An Introductory Treatise On Dynamical Astronomy
They did this not to account for some small complication of planetary movement, but to make what they thought was a more pleasing theory. Because the heavenly motions were eternal, they believed that the paths of the planets should be explained with uniform movement in perfect circles. Ptolemy cheated, they believed, by using his equant. Although the motion around the equant point was on the circle, it was sometimes faster and sometimes slower. How could the Islamic astronomers replace the equant with uniformly moving circles?
The result was to change the size of the larger circle in each model, to 38 units for Mars, 130 for Jupiter, and 231 for Saturn. This produced a system for the three outer planets. This was not yet Copernicus’s great discovery of a sun-centered system. It is still geocentric—earth-centered—because this arrangement has the sun orbiting the earth. Often, great discoveries are made step-by-step. 24 for Saturn. These are very close to the actual distances from the sun to those planets in astronomical units, that is, in units of the distance from the earth to the sun.
The motions in the circles never stopped, and the combination made the planet, as seen from the earth, appear to stop and then move retrograde. It was very clever. However, from time to time in the centuries after Ptolemy, scholars had doubts about Ptolemy’s models. This was not because the models were not clever or that they failed to predict correct positions for the planets, but because they violated some of the ancient ideas about how eternal, celestial motions should be explained. In order to conform as much as possible to Aristotelian principles, Ptolemy had confined his models to various combinations of circular motions.
An Introductory Treatise On Dynamical Astronomy by Plummer H. C. 1875