The world’s oldest still-operational planetarium was created to disprove the end of the world. In May 1774, the Frisian clergyman Eelco Alta published a book on an impending planetary alignment, declaring this “a preparation or a commencement of the demolishing or destruction” of the universe. In an age when afflictions such as headaches and blindness were often attributed to stars and planets, Alta’s prediction quickly caught on: edgier Dutch bards began composing doomsday songs, and other printers rushed to cash in on mounting public panic. Among those not swept away was the wool-comber and hobbyist astronomer Eise Eisinga, who allegedly chose this moment to begin work on a clockwork solar system, hoping to demonstrate the absurdity of such prophecies and free his countrymen of their superstitions.
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