Astronomical devices have been made for thousands of years. A famous example is the Antikythera mechanism, an artifact recovered off the Greek island of Antikythera. It is an ancient planetarium (or orrery) used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses for calendrical and astrological purposes. Even the Olympiads, the cycles of the ancient Olympic Games, could be calculated. The ancient device is a complex clockwork mechanism composed of at least 30 meshing bronze gears and is dated at around 205 BC.
[Model of the Antikythera mechanism]
Just a few kilometers west of my hometown of Harlingen lies the city of Franeker. In that Frisian town once lived Eise Eisinga (1744-1828), an amateur astronomer who built a planetarium in his own house. The planetarium still exists and is the oldest functioning planetarium in the world. Eisinga never went to school, but he did publish a book about the principles of astronomy when he was only 17 years old.
[Eise Eisinga's planetarium]
And today the Frisians are still world famous for their – sometimes – astronomical watches with – yes- astronomical price tags. Christiaan van der Klaauw, based in Heerenveen, creates astronomical watches such as the Planetarium, which contains the smallest mechanical planetarium in the world, showing in real time the orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn around the Sun. Don't worry, it also tells you the time and the mechanism is extremely accurate.
[Van der Klaauw Planetarium CKPT3304]
It isn't quite known why Frisians are so fascinated with planetary movements. It might have something to do with their healthy dairy products or their perfect night skies, but my bet is on Beerenburg, a traditional alcoholic drink that contains a host of medicinal herbs. It is almost exclusively consumed by Frisians.