The latest and greatest exhibit in the Oregon Observatory in Sunriver is an old school celestial time tracker.
The device was handmade by the Beacham Clock Company in Sisters and is the only one of its kind on public display. The rest are in private collections.
Master clock maker Ed Beacham from Sisters built 12 gear-driven celestial time trackers in 2017, the year of the Total Solar Eclipse.
He sold 11 of them to private collectors for $5,000 apiece.
Thanks to donors, the last one is now on display in the Oregon Observatory at the Sunriver Nature Center.
“We had to make over 5,000 parts. I have three milling machines and we had all three of them running everyday. It took a lot of parts and pieces,” Beacham said.
Celestial time trackers are mechanical models of the solar system used to illustrate or predict the motions of the planets and moons.
The device represents the solar system as it was understood in the 1700s when only the planets that were visible to the naked eye were known.
Even without all the planets, it’s still a useful tool and a masterpiece of gears and woodwork.
“They can physically see without using a computer screen how the planets are lined up and how they relate to the earth and the moon,” said Bob Grossfeld, Manager of Space Sciences at the Oregon Observatory. “This is going to be a great tool for helping people understand why we see Venus in phase.”
Observatory managers say the newly constructed but very old technology celestial time tracker will be a useful physical and visual tool to explain an eclipse that will be visible in 2023.