37th DPS Meeting, 4-9 September 2005
Session 12 Education and Outreach
Oral, Monday, September 5, 2005, 5:35-6:05pm, Music Concert Hall

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[12.01] The Human Orrery

M.E. Bailey, A.A. Christou, D.J. Asher (Armagh Observatory)

The Human Orrery is a dynamic model of the solar system, where people play the role of the moving planets. The users' interactions with the model lead to greater awareness of their place in space and understanding of our planet's changing position with time. It is an innovative concept, the first example in the world to show with precision the elliptical orbits and changing positions of the main bodies in the solar system. It engages the general public in science and mathematics, and introduces key concepts in astronomy and space science in a fun and entertaining way.

The model shows the orbits of the six classical planets, a main-belt asteroid (Ceres) and two comets (Halley and Encke) at a scale of 1 metre to 1 AU. It contains more than 200 individually inscribed discs showing the positions of objects at intervals of 16 days or multiples thereof. The region beyond Saturn shows the thirteen ecliptic constellations and directions to more distant objects in the Universe.

Activities include `walking the orrery' (moving around the orbits in lockstep from one disc to the next to illustrate Kepler's third law of planetary motion); identifying which planets are visible tonight (or at any other time); and discovering phenomena such as planetary alignments, conjunctions and transits. Younger users can run the orrery; measure the distance between planets or a planet's speed in different parts of its orbit; or use the open space for to create a `dance of the planets'. Advanced users can investigate Kepler's laws by direct measurement; modular arithmetic; properties of ellipses; and calendrical concepts such as leap years and the need for the Gregorian reform. For more information, see http://star.arm.ac.uk/orrery/.

The Human Orrery's construction was funded by the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to http://star.arm.ac.uk/orrery/. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #3
© 2004. The American Astronomical Soceity.