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probably made in Edinburgh

Postcard of Cometarium.
© National Museums Scotland


A cometarium is a device for illustrating the elliptical motion of a comet around the sun. This example was made around 1790, probably by John Miller, a scientific instrument maker based in Edinburgh.

This picture of the cometarium shows the handle at the rear which was used to operate the mechanism that moves the comet around the sun. The comet moves fastest when closest to the sun, an approximate reflection of the motion of a real comet.

The demonstration given by the instrument is based on the first mathematical basis for celestial mechanics which was provided by Isaac Newton's Law of Gravitation.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-190-001-056-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1975.53
Date: Around 1790
c. 1790
Subject: 3. ASTRONOMY, Models (Departmental Classification)
Who: John Miller, Edinburgh (Maker)
Where: Scotland, Midlothian, Edinburgh
Description: Cometaraium, a device for illustrating the elliptical motion of a comet around the sun, by John Miller, Edinburgh, c. 1790
  • Clarke, T.N., Morrison-Low, A.D. & Simpson, A.D.C., Brass & glass scientific instrument making workshops in Scotland as illustrated by instruments from the Arthur Frank Collection at the Royal Museum of Scotland. Edinburgh: NMS, 1989, p 30 
  • Millburn, J. R., Wheelwright of the Heavens. London: 1988, p 64 
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