Oh, the orreries I have known…

From Merriam-Webster:


noun \ˈȯr-ər-ē, ˈär-\

plural or·rer·ies
an apparatus showing the relative positions and motions of bodies in the solar system by balls moved by a clockwork

As you can tell, recently I have been in a learn-more-about-the-universe mood.  There are some fantastic orreries around the world that people have built using simple materials, and I am highlighting some of them here.

orrery_03Version 1:  The LEGO orrery

There are multiple versions of orreries built from LEGO, including this one here and this other one over here.  There’s one on the Makezine site, but it doesn’t have accurate representations of the planets (minus points for making Venus look like Jupiter  – boo!).  Perhaps the most temporally accurate is this one, from Don Rogerson.  His LEGO version is accurate to about 12 hours per month, that is, a deviation of about 1.8%.  Not bad for LEGO!

Version 2: 3D-printed “orreries”

Followers of this blog know my penchant for 3D printing, as seen here and here.  Naturally, folks have 3D printed some models of the solar system.  3d_Printed_Terrestrial_OrreryTo date, however, none of these are true orreries, in that they aren’t driven by a clockwork (ie., they aren’t gear-driven to move in synchrony).  That said, these are pretty awesome models!  The one at right is on DeviantART and was posted by user IMVU-Whystler.  You can see some previous models by Whystler on Shapeways.  There are downloadable plans for a true 3D printed orrery on GrabCAD, but it’s not clear that anyone has actually made it yet.

Version 3:  Wooden Orreries
There are lots of wooden orreries in the history of the world, and wood allows fine enough detail yet enough structural rigidity to make very fine orreries indeed.  For some examples, see the incredible orreries on the Clayton Boyer site.  Many wooden orreries have hand-carved gears, which is awe-inspiring and beautiful.
I love watching these orreries spin around – as a visual learner, it is the only way to truly understand the orbits of the planets in our Solar System relative to one another.  They are small enough to move around, yet large enough to be very tactile.  Plus, mechanical things are just fun manipulatives.

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