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Kepler Orrery

Observatory Kepler Orrery smA recent Horizon programme took a look at our latest understanding of how the planets circle our Sun. Away with the old idea of fixed orbits, and all those mechanical orreries that showed them nicely circling the Sun on clockwork extensions. It turns out that the planets in our solar system have been flying all over the place, with the gas giant Jupiter playing havoc with the order of things. A real paradigm shift this, not dissimilar to when the Earth stopped being flat and became a sphere. The image that left me breathless, both with its beauty but also with what it represents, is this one from the Kepler Orrery. This modern video orrery (check it out on YouTube, but do switch off the cheesy music!) shows the orbits of planets in other solar systems. Just look at the variety, and how exceptional our planetary layout really is (seen top lefthand corner). It really does make you realise, once again, that we are here by the smallest of margins. The universe has the chance to see itself through our eyes, through our consciousness, through modern wonders such as this orrery.

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