Heavens Above

In Franeker there is a planetarium. Many towns and cities have a planetarium and they’re very interesting places, showing us the heavens above and instilling the desire to be an astronaut in many a small child.

Franeker’s planetarium is different, more special. It’s the oldest functioning planetarium in the world. That it was constructed by a man who worked as a wool carder, turning bundles of fleece into workable yarns, makes it all the more remarkable.

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Back in 1770’s the general populous where having a bit of a panic. Many believed that a great conjunction of the stars would result in a heavenly star crash, a collision that would throw the Earth from its orbit and into a fiery death plunge towards the sun. It was a worry.

Eise Eisiger didn’t believe this would be the case and set out to show that come the 8th of May 1774, they’d be a few oohs and ahhs, but other than that, life would continue as normal. The model of the solar system that he created in his Franeker living room is absolutely fantastic and it’s not just for show, the collection of cogs, gears, levers and pendulums is incredibly accurate, with the planets orbiting the sun in real time.

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His model finishes at Saturn, which can be forgiven as this was the furthest of the planets known at the time. He didn’t stop at the planets though, adding various other chronological and astrological displays.

For all this genius, Eisiger didn’t foresee just how long his planetarium would remain in use and the date display does require a new set of years to be added every now and then.

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