A LEGO Orrery

We aren’t sure how accurate you can get with LEGO, but a building block orrery looks cool, if nothing else. [Marian42] saw one done a few years ago and decided to build a version with a different mechanism. At first, the plan was to use some 3D printed fixtures, but the final product is made entirely from LEGO bricks. Very impressive. The video below shows that it has been complete for awhile, but the write-up that goes into great detail has only just arrived and it was worth the wait.

This is one of those things that seems simple if you don’t think too hard about it. However, when you sit down to actually do it, there are a number of challenges. For one thing, the Earth tilts at 23.5 degrees, and as the planet rotates, the tilt stays in the same direction, making it tricky to model mechanically.

The moon also has a 5.15 degree inclination, but since that’s hard to notice at this scale, the LEGO orrery exaggerates it. So, the Moon’s track has its own set of design problems. The whole thing has to rotate on a concentric shaft, which is also tricky to get right with kids’ building blocks.

Compared to the last orrery we saw, this one is huge. We’ve always been partial to ones that you have to look up to.

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Tiny Orrery Is A Watchmaker’s Tour De Force

Six tiny gears, a few fancy pins, and some clever casting are what it takes to build this tiny orrery. And patience — a lot of patience, too.

As model solar systems go, this one is exceptionally small. Its maker, [Mike] from Chronova Engineering, says it measures about 20 mm across and qualifies as the smallest orrery around. We can’t officiate that claim, but we’re not going to argue with it either. It’s limited to the Sun-Earth-Moon system, and while not as complete as some other models we’ve seen, it’s still exquisitely detailed. The gears that keep the Moon rotating 12.4 times around the Earth for each rotation of our home planet around the Sun are tiny, and take an abundance of watchmaking skill to pull off.

The video below shows the whole process, which is absolutely entrancing to watch. There are some neat tricks on display, from milling out the arms of the main wheel using a powered tailstock spindle to casting the Sun from resin in a silicone mold. The final model, with the model Earth and Moon spinning around the Sun on delicate brass wheels, is a visual treat.

We’ve seen some interesting stuff from Chronova Engineering lately, including this bimetallic tea timer.

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A ceiling-mounted model of the Solar System

Ceiling-Mounted Orrery Is An Excercise In Simplicity

Ever since humans figured out that planets move along predetermined paths in the heavens, they have tried to make models that can accurately predict their motion. Watchmakers and astronomers worked together to create orreries: mechanical contraptions that illustrate the positions of all planets and the way they move over time through complex gear systems. [Illusionmanager] continues the orrery tradition but uses a different approach: he built a beautiful ceiling-mounted model of our Solar System without a gearing system.

The mechanism that makes his Solar System tick is deceptively simple. All planets can move freely along their orbit’s axis except Mercury, which is moved along its orbit by a motor hidden inside the Sun. Once Mercury has completed a full revolution, a pin attached to its arm will begin pushing Venus along with it. After Venus has completed a full circle, its own pin will pick up Earth, and so on all the way to Neptune. Neptune is then advanced to its correct location as reported by NASA, after which Mercury’s motion is reversed and the whole procedure is repeated in the opposite direction to position Uranus.

Cycling through the entire Solar System in this way takes a long time, which is why the planets’ positions are only updated once a day at midnight. An ESP32, also hidden inside the Sun, connects to the internet to retrieve the correct positions for the day and drives the motor. The planet models, sourced from a museum shop, are hanging from thin aluminium tubes attached to wooden mounts made with a desktop CNC machine.

[Illusionmanager] made a detailed Instructables page showing the process of making a miniature version of the mechanism using just laser-cut wooden parts, as an update to a version we featured earlier. We really like the simplicity of this design, which stands in stark contrast to the huge gear trains used in more traditional orreries.

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Tiny Orrery Keeps The Planets In Their Places

[Frans] claims to have made the world’s smallest wooden orrery. We won’t take a position on that — such things are best left up to the good folks at Guinness. But given that the whole thing is seriously in danger of being dwarfed by a USB-C connector, we’d say he’s got a pretty good shot at that record.

The key to keeping this planetarium so petite while making it largely out of wood is to eschew the complex gear trains that usually bring the Music of the Spheres to life in such devices. The layered base of the orrery, with pieces cut from a sheet of basswood using a laser cutter, contains a single tiny stepper motor and just two gears. A zodiac disc sits atop the base and is the only driven element in the orrery; every other celestial body moves thanks to a pin set into the zodiac disc. An ESP32 C3 contacts a NASA feed once a day to get the relative positions of the planets and uses the zodiac disk to arrange everything nicely for the day. The video below shows the “Planet Spinner” in action.

We love the look of this project; the burnt edges and lightly smoked surface of the laser-cut wooden parts look fantastic, and the contrast with the brass wires is striking. We’ve seen an orrery or two around here, executed in everything from solid brass to Lego, but this one really tickled our fancy. Continue reading “Tiny Orrery Keeps The Planets In Their Places”

Lego Orrery

LEGOpunk Orrery Knows Just The Right Technics

Is the unmistakable sound of the shuffling of LEGO pieces being dug through burned into your psyche? Did the catalog of ever more complex Technic pieces send your imagination soaring into the stratosphere and beyond? Judging by the artful contraption in the video below the break, we are fairly certain that [Marian] can relate to these things.

No doubt inspired by classic orreries driven by clockwork, [Marian]’s LEGO Sun-Earth-Moon orrery is instead driven by either hand cranks or by electric motors. The orrery aims to be astronomically correct. To that end, a full revolution of a hand crank produces a full day’s worth of movement.

Solar and lunar eclipses can be demonstrated, along with numerous other principals such as the tilt of the earth, moon phases, tidal locking, and more, which can be found at the project page.

While classical orreries predate the Victorian era, there seems to be an almost inexplicable link between orreries and the Steampunk aesthetic. But [Marian]’s orrery brought the term “LEGOpunk” to mind. Could it be? Given that there are 2305 pieces and 264 pages of instructions with 436 steps, we think so!

We’ve covered just a few orreries in the past, from this somewhat simple laser cut orrery to this horrifically complex and beautiful thing here.¬† Continue reading “LEGOpunk Orrery Knows Just The Right Technics”

Astronomical clock

An Astronomical Mechanical Clock, In More Ways Than One

If the workings of a mechanical timepiece give you a thrill, prepare to be blown away by this over-the-top astronomical clock.

The horological masterpiece, which was designed by [Mark Frank] as his “dream clock”, is a riot of brass, bronze, and steel — 1,200 pounds (544 kg) of it, in fact, at least in the raw materials pile. Work on the timepiece began in 2006, with a full-scale mockup executed in wood by Buchannan of Chelmsford, the Australian fabricator that [Mark] commissioned to make his design a reality. We have a hard time explaining the design, which has just about every horological trick incorporated into it.

[Mark] describes the clock as “a four train, quarter striking movement with the fourth train driving the astronomical systems,” which sounds far simpler than the finished product is. It includes 52 “complications,” including a 400-year perpetual calendar, tide clock, solar and lunar eclipse prediction, a planisphere to show the constellations, and even a thermometer. And, as if those weren’t enough, the clock sports both a tellurion to keep track of the Sun-Earth-Moon system and a full orrery out to the orbit of Saturn, including all the major moons. The video below shows the only recently finished masterpiece in operation.

[Mark]’s dream clock has been under construction for the better part of two decades, and we applaud not just his design but his patience. The skeletonized construction reminds us of the Clickspring clock from a few years back; now seems like a great time to go back and binge-watch that whole series again.

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CNC Tellurion Lets You See The Earth And Moon Dance

Kids – they’re such a treasure. One minute you’re having a nice chat, the next minutes they’re testing your knowledge of the natural world with a question like, “Why can we see the Moon during the day?” And before you know it, you’re building a CNC Earth-Moon orbital model.

We’ve got to applaud¬†[sniderj]’s commitment to answering his grandson’s innocent question. What could perhaps have been demonstrated adequately with a couple of balls and a flashlight instead became an intricate tellurion that can be easily driven to show the relative position of the Earth and Moon at any date; kudos for anticipating the inevitable, “Where was the moon when I was born, Grampa?” question. The mechanism is based on the guts of a defunct 3D-printer, with the X-, Y-, and Z-axis steppers now controlling the Earth’s rotation and tilt and the Moon’s orbit respectively, with the former extruder drive controlling the tilt of the Moon’s orbital plane. A complex planetary gear train with herringbone gears, as well as a crossed-shaft helical gear set, were 3D-printed from PLA. The Earth model is a simple globe and the Moon is a ping-pong ball; [sniderj] is thinking about replacing the Moon with a 3D-printed bump-map model, a move which we strongly endorse. The video below shows the tellurion going through a couple of hundred years of the saros at warp speed.

There’s just something about machines that show the music of the spheres, whether they be ancient or more modern. And this one would be a great entry into our 3D-Printed Gears, Pulleys, and Cams contest too.

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