The Armagh Observatory’s ‘Human Orrery’ is the first large outdoor exhibit in the world to show accurately the elliptical orbits and changing relative positions of the planets and other solar system bodies with time. It has been constructed with the support of the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) and is the first major addition to the Observatory Grounds and Astropark for more than a decade. A ceremony to mark its construction will take place at the Observatory on the morning of Friday 26th November.
An orrery is a dynamic model of the solar system, designed to show the positions, relative orbits and distances of the planets about the Sun. It shows the orbital periods of objects revolving around the Sun and can be used to illustrate a wide range of celestial phenomena, including planetary alignments, conjunctions, transits, and the laws of orbital mechanics.
The name ‘Orrery’ for the first orrery, which was invented 300 years ago by the English clockmaker and inventor George Graham (c.1674–1751), was popularized by the Irish essayist Sir Richard Steele (1672–1729), in honour of Charles Boyle (1674–1731), the fourth Earl of Orrery. The name has since been attached to any device designed to show the planetary motions.
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