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The world’s oldest working planetarium is located in the living room of a small, two-story house in the city of Franeker, in the Netherlands. The house belonged to an 18th-century wool comber called Eise Eisinga, who built this remarkable mechanical model of the solar system (also called an orrery) to show to his townsfolk how the heavens actually worked.

Eisinga’s planetarium was built at a time when the nation was gripped by panic and hysteria. It started with a small book published in 1774 by a Dutch preacher named Eelco Alta, from the Frisian village of Bozum, in which he made a clichéd yet terrifying prediction — the end of earth. Earlier, astronomers had announced that an unusual conjunction of the moon and the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter was to happen on 8 May, 1774. Alta argued that on this very day, the planets and their moon would collide, with the result that the earth would be propelled out of its orbit and burned by the sun.

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© Amusing Planet, 2015.


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