Entrace pavilion with heavenly firmament
Whilst walking from planet to planet the visitor is shown a connection between a map of the cosmos as we see it today and the way ancient people looked at it. This ancient view of the world was passed on in legends, myths, traditions and religions. "As it is in heaven, so shall it be on earth". - The model in Rettenegg realizes the words of this prayer as it depicts the planets of our solar system true to scale here on earth. Along the `planetary trail´ you pass the planets, accurate to a scale of 1:1 billion in relation to both their sizes as well as the distances between each other. They are arranged in the respective positions as they were on May 5th, 2000. One million km is represented by one meter and the distance between the sun and the earth (the astronomical unit, abbr. AU), which equals approximately 149 million km, is reduced to a distance of 149 m here on earth. If the next fixed star, Alpha Centauri, which is about four light years away, was also included in this model, it would be a 10th part of the moon's distance from the earth. Walking slowly from planet to planet at a speed of one km per hour corresponds to the speed of light, 300.000 km/second. The distance covered by each planet in its daily orbit around the sun is marked along the way and mentioned as "daily way" in the descriptive texts. The dome at the entrance pavilion shows the starry firmament as it appears now at the time of the summer solstice at midnight, or at the beginning of spring, just before dawn, facing towards the south. Light spots symbolize the signs of the zodiac from Polaris to Ophiuchus and from Aquarius to Leo. They are linked by stellar constellations or, in parts, surrounded by sculptures of the respective zodiac signs.
The descriptive texts of the different stations are arranged in two parts :
The current astronomical view explained in scholar terms (printed in "standard font") and the mythological part, which describes astronomic, calendrical and astrologic details of old world views (printed in "italics").
The world view of the modern age describes the planets' orbits as ellipses, at whose focal point there is the sun, whereas in old times one thought that the earth stood in the centre of the whole universe and that around this centre the planets moved in circles. The two views have in common that they describe the visible planet movements. In front of the background of the fixed stars, which are divided into constellations and form the celestial dome, all orbits run in almost one plane along the zodiac. The ecliptic, the apparent movement of the sun, is also seen there. It results from the fact that the perspective under which we see our central star changes constantly throughout the period of one year because of the movement of the earth. Two planets or the sun and one planet crossing in the sky are called `conjunctions`. At irregular intervals rare positions occur which show - looked at from the earth - that all classic planets of the solar system (up to Saturn) come together in one place on the ecliptic. Such a position, which occurred on May 5th 2000, corresponds to a conjunction of all the planets known in ancient times, which then also included Sun and Moon. Seen from the Earth, all seven stars are almost lined up in a row like pearls of a necklace, and we can experience the rare occurrence of a conjunction of all the old planets. But in such a situation the planets actually are almost invisible because they all stand in one direction to the sun by which they are blocked out permanently. Similarly, the Moon's meeting with the Sun means `new moon`.
Such planet constellations have been very important for time orientation and
calendars in many cultures since ancient times. People thought of such a
conjunction as a starting point, when different planet cycles started running at
the same time and when the planets would coincide after the lowest common
multiple of all the cycles. The period between two conjunctions like this was
called a `Great Year`. The earth year itself during which such an event takes
place was even called "The greatest year" by Aristotle. Ancient Persian,
Babylonian and Greek astronomy was filled with thoughts that the beginning and
ending of the world would happen at such a conjunction. After the Great Year the
process would begin exactly in the same order again. In Greek myth, for example,
it was told that after Prometheus had created the human, an Olympic Symposium
for the gods took place. It describes graphically a meeting or conjunction of
all the planets. Far Eastern cultures were also based on such planet
constellations: The Chinese Zhuanxu-chronology started with such a
conjunction on March 5th in 1953 before Christ. The Indian age Kali Yuga started
on February 17th, 3102 B.C. It is the same date for which the
Persians, Sassanids and later the Islams supposed a great flood because of this
planet constellation. The beginning of the Jewish chronology, which started with
the equinox in the autumn of the year 3760 B.C., can also be traced back to a
similar planet constellation. Up to now the last conjunction of all
the classic planets was on May 5th 2000, which was the millennium date of the
Christian calendar. The Skythic monk and astronomer Dionysius Exiguus introduced
this Christian calendar in the year 531, when such a conjunction took place as
well. Today we know that the "Star of Bethlehem", which was associated with the
birth of Jesus Christ, was actually seen in 7 B.C. This means that there is a
difference of 7 years, which may be due to the fact that Dionysius had too few
or different chronological pieces of information as a basis for his counting.
Recently S. Rothwangl suggested another possibility: Rothwangl supplies hints that the concurrence of the year 2000 with the row of planets on May 5th was not by chance, but intended by Dionysius Exiguus. Therefore he set the calendar up in such a way that the return of the conjunction of all the planets would coincide with the millennium. A similar position of planets will next take place in the spring of the year 2675, when Uranus and Neptune will also be situated near this conjunction.
Picture : From "De revolutionibus orbis coelestium libri" by Nicolaus Copernicus