Watch the Fiery Rotations of a 40-Foot-Wide Mechanical Solar System

Art & Sculpture Craft & Design
Watch the Fiery Rotations of a 40-Foot-Wide Mechanical Solar System
Photo by Wendell DeLano

As a child, Jessika Welz was enthralled by a scene in the popular Jim Henson movie The Dark Crystal, where the entire set is filled with a massive mechanical solar system called an orrery.

Typically, these functional models are small, precise clockwork designs, but what stood out to Welz was the massive grandeur of the movie set piece. The imagery of the mechanical precision mixed with the gargantuan proportions stuck with her for years, ultimately resurfacing when she decided to build an art piece called Celestial Mechanica for Burning Man.

Photo by Nigel Dobson-Keefe

With the help of a devoted team of people over several months, Welz’s vision was brought to life. Each piece was meticulously crafted from bare metal specifically for the purpose of inspiring that same awe she felt as a child.

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The orrery’s 40-foot-wide span of orbit, and the 6-foot-diameter, propane-powered, flaming sun at the core easily brings that same grandeur to Welz’s design. You can feel the heat on your face as you stand outside the farthest orbit and observe the custom-made gears rotating each planet and moon within a mathematically correct model.

“I was going to make an entire fantasy solar system, but I started looking into our own solar system and it’s really quite fascinating on its own,” says Welz.

Photo by Nigel Dobson-Keefe
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I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity I see in makers. My favorite thing in the world is sharing a maker's story. find me at

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