Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Build A Model Solar System

Orrery. Say it 10 times quickly.

Electronic solar system models have always been associated with toys only for the rich and famous. I remember seeing one a few years ago when I walked past some shop selling antique clocks. So you can imagine my excitement when I saw this at Borders back in August:

I bought 2 copies of this issue and may give them away as prizes during sidewalk astronomy sessions.

Brings back wonderful memories of trying to collect something and then realised some parts are deliberately made rare to "encourage" more sales ( I still have an incomplete set of Superman movie cards :) ). But not this orrery. If you buy all 52 sets you will definitely get all the parts. This will add up to a few hundred dollars but still much cheaper than those sold at antique clock stores which costs a few thousand dollars at least.

Other than Borders, one should be able to find them at popular bookstores like Popular (sorry can't resist).

As a educational tool, it is fantastic. It will create a sense of wonder and excitement about our solar system that cannot be easily conveyed in words and two-dimensional diagrams. The only disadvantage (applies to almost all orrery) is that they do NOT scale the size of the planets and Sun and the distance among them accurately. If they did, generations of people will be very excited to observe and learn more about our Sun. Because the first comment almost everyone will make when they see such an orrery is "What is that gigantic "planet" in the middle?"

Bumped into Joo Beng own my way out of Borders and we joked that we should collect one full set soon and find a cheaper manufacturer in China (Don't worry Victor, it is a joke. :) )

After doing some online research back home, I was glad to know that we can buy the full complete set without waiting for 52 weeks. And that complete set is actually cheaper and comes with a few more goodies. The local distributor, Allscript Pte Ltd, found the Singastro forum and revealed more information about this complete package. I was keen to have a hands-on on the completed set and Victor from Allscript was very kind to recall back their only completed set which was on display at Prologue (bookstore at ION Ochard) for my evaluation at their office. He told me the set is not a fully working set as the adapter and some minor parts were missing. Still, I was keen to take a look.

Dropped by their office on 26 october and took some shots of the set.

It's all aligned! We are all going to dieeeeeee!

Beautiful gear teeth

3rd rock from the Sun

More teeth!

Where is Pluto?

I am impressed by the built of the model. Very sturdy and solid. Being a typical gadget guy, I had fun seeing big and small brass gears move when I manually rotate the planetary support arms. Considering the weight of the orrery, it is very reassuring for local buyers that the Allscript office is located in a convenient place and not in some far away feeder-bus-access-only industrial estates. It is just a short walking distance from Tai Seng MRT station (Circle Line).

Here's the company's contact info:

Allscript Establishment (Singapore) Pte Ltd

605A Macpherson Road, #04-04 Citimac Industrial Complex, Singapore 368240.
Tel: 65-62877090 Fax: 65-63833057 Email:

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For those who are thinking to purchase this orrery, do not just focus on the entertainment and educational benefits of the orrery alone. The magazines that comes with it are a rich and colourful source of information that will help one to appreciate the orrery better. Just like those who stargaze that appreciate what they are looking at better due to the understanding of the nature and characteristics of the celestial objects they are looking at. To the uninitated, Sirius may just look like boring bright point of light through a telescope. But if they knew that is the brightest star observable from Earth and the Egyptians once used it to predict the flooding of river Nile, that will create a greater appreciation, wonder and enjoyment of what they are looking at.

Another reassuring point about purchasing this product is that the full assembling instructions are available on YouTube.

I highly encourage all educational institutions to purchase at least one set for their Science/Astronomy clubs. Now if only someone can let me play with their fully assembled and working set. :)

For more infomation, visit the official website of Build A Model Solar System :

This is nice video review I found on YouTube. Enjoy.


  1. Hey Was still wondering whether Allscript Establishment still sells the complete set? If yes, how much do they costs? Thanks!

    1. Hi there. I am not very sure. Perhaps you can give them a call or send them an email and check with them.

      SINGAPORE 368240

      TEL: 65-62877090
      FAX: 65-63833057

    2. The brass orrery cost US$399 + US$119 shipping on ebay ... excluding local 7% GST

      I cannot find it on, usually china stuff are cheaper there.