Using the Electric Orrery

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The Electric Orrery has a number of controls for changing the simulation. You can change the date, look at different parts of the Solar System and move forwards and backwards in time. This is all done with the buttons on the Orrery control panel.

Changing the Date

You can move the date forward or backwards in periods of a day, a month, or a year. You can also move forward or backwards in time using the arrow keys at the top of the control panel. The more arrows the faster time passes. The date you are currently viewing can be seen to the top right of the orrery.

The orrery showing all of the planets and Pluto, with
the inner planets barely visible towards the centre.

Different Planets

The Solar System is a very big place and Pluto is 100 times further away from the Sun than Mercury. The Orrery draws the orbits of the planets to scale, so if Pluto is shown, then all the inner planets would be squeezed together in the middle. Therefore, you can change the display options to allow you to see a selection of the Solar System at a time.

  • Inner Solar System - The four terrestrial planets, with the option to show the planet names (labels).
  • Visible Solar System - Based on what we can see with the naked eye in the night sky. This includes the planets out to Saturn.
  • Outer Solar System - Focuses on the four outer planets, with the option to include the dwarf planet, Pluto.


By clicking on the arrow buttons you will begin to animate the orrery, and will see the date changing in the top right. You can go both forwards and backwards in time, and use the stop button to pause the orrery at any point. There are three buttons for going forward (or backwards) at different speeds:

  • >  Go forward one day at a time.
  • >>  One month at a time.
  • >>>  One year at a time


The key to the Electric Orrery

The Key

The Key shows you which planet is which on the screen. You can find out more about each of the planets and the dwarf planet, Pluto, from the Solar System section of the Learn menu. Note that the sizes of the orbits of the planets are to scale, the planets themselves are not.