How-To Geek


The Oldest Planetarium In The World Is Located Where?
A Russian Cave
The Parthenon
A Dutch Living Room
Oxford University

Answer: A Dutch Living Room

In the Dutch town of Franeker, there is a small and unassuming home that houses a planetarium on the ceiling of its living room. The intricate and mechanically driven model of our solar system is over 230 years old and, as such, is the oldest functioning planetarium in existence.

How, exactly, did a small home in the Netherlands become a planetarium? To answer that question, we have to dig into the history of one brilliant but amateur Dutch astronomer by the name of Eise Eisinga. The son of a wool worker, Eisinga wasn’t allowed to go to school but was, instead, compelled to study his father’s craft. Despite this, he educated himself and published his first work on astronomy at the age of 17. In his later life he even served as a professor at the Franeker Academy.

Eisinga began work on his planetarium in summer of 1774. Earlier that year Reverend Eelco Alta published a book claiming that the the impending alignment of the moons of Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter were going to cause a cosmic imbalance of sorts that would push the Earth off its orbit and send it on a fiery journey into the Sun. This prediction caused an inordinate amount of panic in the public and Eisinga, as a service to the public, began work on an intricate model of the solar system in order to show that the prediction and its foretold outcome were false.

The entire project took 7 years (far more than the 6 months Eisinga had original predicted) and featured a complex system of wooden rings fitted with thousands of hand-forged nails to serve as cog-teeth. Despite its age the apparatus still tracks the placement of planets in our solar system with precision–a testament to both the quality of the construction and the knowledge of the builder.

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