What is Orrery making?

The Sun, our star, and everything gravitationally connected to it, including the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, dwarf planets like Pluto, dozens of moons, and millions of asteroids, comets, and meteoroids, make up our solar system. There are also found hundreds more planetary systems orbiting other stars in the Milky Way in addition to the solar system.

An orrery is a mechanical representation of the Solar System that, often using the heliocentric model, shows or forecasts the relative locations and movements of the planets and moons. It may also depict the relative sizes of these bodies, although due to the frequently impractical big ratio discrepancies, an approximate representation may be utilized in its place. 

Although the Greeks had functioning planetaria, the first orrery—a modern-day planetarium—was created in 1704 and was given to Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery, giving rise to the term. They are often powered by a clockwork mechanism that has a globe in the center that stands in for the Sun and planets at either end of its arms.

However, the model is not accurate to scale. The relative distances from the sun and between the planets would be significantly bigger even though the relative sizes of the planets may be approximated. The earth would be less than one-hundredth of a millimeter in diameter and located more than 10 meters distant, while Uranus would be located more than 200 meters away if these planets were to scale with respect to the sun.

The circular brass box housing the wheelwork that governs the motions of the planets can have one of three different sets of fittings installed above it. As it is installed, the orrery displays the planets all the way to Uranus, representing the known size of the solar system. Other fixtures might be used to show how the earth and moon move in relation to one another and how eclipses occur (lunarium), or how the world rotates and revolutions, and how the seasons change (tellurian).

Although the Greeks had functioning planetaria, English clockmakers George Graham and Thomas Tompion constructed the first orrery that served as a planetarium in the modern period in 1704. Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery, who ordered one of the first versions, which gave the instrument its name.


During this period, orreries gained enormous popularity and were utilized for both educational reasons and, for those who could afford them, for leisure time in the home. Their popularity was increased by admiration for Sir Isaac Newton’s work, whose universal theory of gravity had explained the planets’ orbits. After William Herschel discovers Uranus in 1781, interest in astronomy increased, even more, spurring the production of several other astronomical devices.


Orreries were initially created as educational tools to illustrate how the solar system functioned. The Antikythera mechanism, which dates to between 150 and 100 BC and was found in a shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera, is one of the earliest orreries ever found. It displays the movements of the Sun, Moon, and the five planets known at the time throughout the day.

Around the year 1704, clockmakers George Graham and Thomas Tompion created what is regarded as the first modern orrery. Even while orreries from today are still utilized as instructional tools, more people are collecting them as works of art. The conventional orrery concept is expanded upon by contemporary orrery producers to include an orbiting moon.


Orreries must be made using advanced mechanical engineering techniques, as well as woodworking, mathematics, and design sensibility.

Problems influencing the craft’s viability


There is a need for top-notch orreries on a global scale, but many manufacturers struggle with the complex mathematics and high degree of talent needed to produce one.

Many current practitioners of Orrery making are already retired.

There is no approved training curriculum for Orrery making.

No full-time or part-time courses for Orrery making.

There are no instructional books for Orrery making.

More information about orreries

There are several sizes for orreries. While some are portable, others have been known to be room sized.

The Sun, Moon, Earth, and any additional optional planets should be included in an orrery.

The model should be referred to as a tellurion if it simply represents the Earth and the Sun.

It is referred to as a luminarium if the instrument solely displays the Earth and the Moon.

Ordinarily, orreries are not constructed to scale.


Orrey making historically was an and important craft for making mechanical representations of our solar system.  They were used for education and other purposes.  With the advent of our modern digital world the practice of Orrery making is dying out even though there still is a need for physical representations to made.