Solar System Model - the Orrery

Eli Whitney Museum

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Thumbnail of Solar System Model - the Orrery project

For School Groups


Models organize big ideas for scientists and students; they identify and test questions and are ideal tools for thinking. The Earth/Moon Rotation orrery shows our planetary movement around the sun and demonstrates lunar orbit and moon phases when illuminated with an accompanying light.

Meets Connecticut Science Standards

  • 5.3: Most objects in the solar system are in a regular and predictable motion.
  • 6.3: Variations in the amount of the sun’s energy hitting the Earth’s surface affect daily and seasonal weather patterns.
  • 8.3: The solar system is composed of planets and other objects that orbit the sun.

Meets Common Core Standards

Meets Next Generation Science Standards

  • ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System The orbits of Earth around the sun and of the moon around Earth, together with the rotation of Earth about an axis betweenits North and South poles, cause observable patterns. These include day and night; daily changes in the length and direction of shadows; and different positions of the sun, moon, and stars at different times of the day, month, and year. (5-ESS1-2)

The Parts.

Step 1. Put the seasonal labels on the corners in order: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall. Put the two small pegs into the holes in the base. Then find the parts shown and carefully put them together as pictured.

Step 2. Put the dowel with the Sun ball into the rounded end of the arm and tightly into the hole in the slotted wheel that you put onto the base in Step 1.

Step 3. At the other end of the arm, put a large wheel on the peg sticking out the end of the arm (put the o ring on the outside to hold it on) and put the smaller wheel with the dowel in it up through the hole next to the large wheel.

Step 4. Loop the rubberband around the slotted wheels on the bottom as shown. Note there is a twist in the rubber band

Step 5. Put the last large wheel on the dowel so it rests on the other large wheel. Carefully place the earth/moon assembly on the top of the dowel and make it secure. Move the Orrery arm counterclockwise to rotate the moon around the earth.

Step 5a Detail.

Step 5b Detail.

Orrery 2019

Orr 2020 parts

Orr Step 1

Orrery 2020 Step 2

Orrery 2020 Step 3

Orrery 2020 Step 4 copy

Orrery 2020 Step 5

Orrery 2020 Step 6

Orrery 2020 Step 7

Orrery 2020 Step 8

Download Orrery Instructions-2.pdf (pdf, 560.0kb)
Download Orrery QandA.pdf (pdf, 76.8kb)

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