Astronomical clocks are loosely defined as clocks that, in addition to telling time, display information related to the movement of the sun and moon in the sky and other astronomical information. A telltale component of these clocks are the interior dials. As seen in the image below there are two dials visible on the clock's face.
The larger dial represents the zodiac and is a representation of the earth's ecliptic which is a way to depict the path of the planets through the sky and the earth's orbit. The sun, found on the end of the hour hand, passes through or across a corresponding zodiac sign to indicate the time of year, or month. (Please see this diagram for an explanation.) Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to apply to the clock on Cinderella's Castle as the image above the sun here corresponds with a December-January time frame and not the late November date this photo was taken on.
The second dial, located inside of the ecliptic dial, depicts the nine planets. Based on the readily available research sites it's not clear if the path of the moon is represented here compared to orbit of the other planets or if something else is taking place. PFTP submitted a question to Dave Smith, the ultimate Disney archivist and hopes to hear from him in a future Insider mail. (User 'wdwmemories' on photobucket has a fantastic close-up image located here. Place your mouse over the image and choose the zoom feature to have a great look at the clock.)
For those of us who frequent the Happiest Place on Earth you also have an astronomical clock at your disposal. This slightly smaller and non-illuminated clock graces the walls in back of Sleeping Beauty Castle directly above the Once Upon a Time store, on the large turret. This clock also displays two inner dials (more clearly visible here) but like its counterpart in Florida, the date depicted above by the sun is off by a month or so. (The image above was taken in February and the clock shows Sagittarius, which is Nov/Dec.)
Regardless, these are truly interesting items within the parks and given the dearth of information online it's unknown to us if similar clocks exist at TDL, TDS, and DLP. Does anyone know? Finally, many thanks to our favorite Dave on the web, Davelandweb for his assistance in learning more about these clocks and finding out the astronomical clock in Disneyland has been there since day 1. Thanks, Dave! Be sure to visit his link for more pictures of this clock in Disneyland.
These photographs were taken by the author in November, 2008 and February, 2009.
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