December 05, 2005

I want to build an orrery.

You might not know that word, but I’ll bet you’ve seen one. It’s a mechanical model of the solar system with planets turning around the sun. It was named after the Earl of Orrery who commisioned a watchmaker to construct a model of Newton’s planetary motions in 1700.

Orrery designed by James Ferguson. Adler Planeterium, Chicago.

Nowadays it’s easy to find digital ones (Science U, Orrery with NASA images, and Schools Observatory). Most of the beautiful mechanical ones are in museums but there are some contemporary orrery makers (John Gleave and Brian Grieg) and plans available for build-it-yourself orreries made of Legos and others from meccano/erector sets.

Of course I want to make one that isn’t of our solar system, but a system of my own invention. And in fact, my ultimate goal is to make one with complex motion—some of the planets have eliptical orbits and they won’t all be in the same plane. I know how it will look and how it moves. Now I have to figure out how to do it.

I wish Dad were still here. He’d be good at this.

Posted by kuri at December 05, 2005 11:54 PM


He’d be very good at it and would Have loved the challenge.

Posted by: Fran on December 6, 2005 05:25 AM

how fabby.. I love it. Metal, cogs and working with screwdrivers. My kind of project.

(Meanwhile, I am a terribly boring cook but great with a spanner. Fortunately, Ash’s talents compliment mine as we discovered last night as he cooked up a feast while I put together the cat tree with some home made alterations.)

Posted by: T on December 6, 2005 03:33 PM

I never heard of anything like that! It’s beautiful. I’ll bet they are amazing to watch. Dad wanted to make a sundial out of stained glass. He was working on that - he would be good at the complexities of this.

Posted by: Jennifer on December 7, 2005 10:45 PM
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