Wondering what an orrery is? Simply put, an orrery is a mechanical model of the solar system, or sometimes just the Earth, sun, and moon, built to represent the relative positions of the celestial bodies. Usually, a heliocentric model is used and the sun sits at the center of the model, with the Earth and other planets and moons rotating around it.
Complete accuracy is usually impractical (although the good people at Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre have pulled off a reasonable facsimile), because of the huge difference between the distances separating the Earth and its moon and say, Jupiter from Saturn. Instead, modern consumer orreries provide rough approximations of celestial positions and are mainly purchased as beautiful accessories for office desks, tables, or bookshelves.
If you’re sick of staring at the same old globes and don’t want to go the route of a handmade solar system projector, do yourself a favor and take a look at an orrery. They make a striking addition to any room and can even function as a unique educational toy for a child. (Although a baby might be better served by these solar system mobiles!)
What Are the Best Orrery Solar Systems For Sale in 2020?
Educational Insights Geosafari Motorized Solar System Science Kit
The first product on our list is a great gift for the youngster in your life with a passion for space and astronomy. While the planetary distances are not to scale, and their speeds do not accurately represent actual planetary motion through the heavens, the presentation is bright and engaging. The sun is represented by a bright LED bulb and the entire product is motorized to allow the planets to orbit around the sun.
It’s made of plastic and its construction is typical of toys in this price range. Considering the price, the number of moving parts, and its intended audience, this item may not last for as long as the celestial bodies it represents. A child is likely to make relatively quick work of this toy. But while it lasts, it’s bound to be enjoyed by its young recipient.
The value is unbeatable. Coming in at under $30 at the time of writing, this orrery is on sale and won’t break the piggy-bank. Despite its low price though, it remains a fun and attractive orrery kit that will keep a little guy or lady occupied for at least a couple of hours. After that, it may have a tough time competing with the nearest tablet or smartphone. But that’s true of virtually every toy.
- Amazing value
- Excellent educational toy
- Motorized and illuminated
- Won’t serve much of a decorative function
- Not ideal as decoration
Wanderers Orrery Solar System Model
This orrery kit must be seen to be believed. Not only is it relatively accurate, representing the relative motions of 9 planets and multiple moons, but it is also stunning to behold. It’s made of glass, brass, and oak, and will last a lifetime if stored properly and handling is kept to a minimum.
The motor is silent and powered by two C batteries (which are included with the product). The planets and moons are made of semi-precious stones, rendering the entire product even more beautiful. The product livens up any desk, bookcase, or table, and catches even the discerning eye much better than the average workaday globe.
Be prepared to shell out a significant sum for this planetary beauty though. This orrery kit costs almost $900. You get what you pay for though. This is the only orrery for sale on this list that could reasonably be called “high-end.” It wouldn’t be out of place in a professional’s office or library. The first word that comes to mind when describing this decorative orrery is “classy.”
The workmanship is top-notch to match the materials used in its construction and, while it is best used minimally and as decoration, it’s functional as well. It boasts reasonable accuracy, mimicking the movement of the planets with surprising precision.
This product has won our coveted Editor’s Choice award for all of the aforementioned reasons and despite its hefty price tag. It makes an extraordinary and special gift for an extraordinary and special person. Or you can save it for yourself. Either way, its ultimate recipient can lose herself in its hypnotic design and motion for hours.
- Durable construction
- Beautiful and functional materials and precious stones
ScienceGeek Kinetic Art Asteroid
This orrery is currently on sale for just $17. For that price, you get an attractive, all-metal decoration to add to your bedroom, home office, or library. It’s powered by a 9-volt battery, which isn’t included with the product. It’s not terribly accurate, consisting basically of nine metallic planets attached to circular rings around a metal sun.
The color scheme is hypnotic and made up of brightly colored metal planets and one sun. The rings on which the planets rest are a brushed silver, accentuating, and contrasting with, the planets.
This is as basic as an orrery gets. There’s nothing wrong with that though, especially at this price. It’s quite small as well, weighing in at eight ounces and less than a foot across. If you’re not looking to impress anyone, this might be the product for you.
This decorative orrery is very similar in style and design to the Newton’s Cradle toys you see everywhere, but quite a bit less commonplace. So if you’re looking for something of similar size and design, but aren’t fond of owning the same thing as everyone else on the block, this orrery might be for you.
- Durable metal
- Attractive, multicolored, metallic planets