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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Laser Cutting Orreries

An orrery is a clockwork model of the solar system, demonstrating the machinations of the planets traveling around the sun in a sublime pattern of epicycles. A tellurion is a subset of the orrery, showing the rotation of the Earth around the sun, and the orbit of the moon around the Earth. [HuidongT] created his own tellurion out of laser-cut parts and just a few bits of copper tubes and bearings.

This project was originally inspired by the holzmechanik, a tellurion constructed from plywood gears and brass tube. [HuidongT] saw a few shortcomings in this project: the Earth didn’t spin and the moon didn’t orbit with its natural five-degree inclination. [Huidong]’s tellurion would have these features and include an illuminated sun, demonstrate the change of the seasons, and show lunar and solar eclipses.

While there was a bit of math involved in figuring out the gearing, it’s not much: the Earth would go around the sun every 365.25 days, the moon would go around the Earth every 27.32 days, and there is a difference between sidereal and solar time. A quick script made quick work of the math, and anyone can easily find tools to create gears given a diameter and the number of teeth.

The fabrication of this tellurion was made with acrylic on a laser cutter with a handful of 3D printed parts. The electronics are simple enough — just a motor and a few LEDs, and the completed project works well enough. You can check out a video of the tellurium below.

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