A small brag for one of our bloggers

We are very happy to report that our blogger Chris Graney just got the finalized contract on a new book: The Mathematical Disquisitions of Locher and Scheiner: the 'Booklet of Theses' immortalized by Galileo (by C M Graney) is going to be published by the University of Notre Dame Press.

from Locher's book

All the writing and peer review is finished; it is currently in production and the Press is aiming to have it in print this fall.

Christina and Chris Graney, by the banks of the Ohio. I liked it where we walked...

The book is his translation from Latin of Johann Georg Locher's 1614 Disquisitiones Mathematicae.  Galileo devoted a fair bit of space in his 1632 Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems to picking on this book of Locher's.

The original (Latin) version of Locher's book is available on-line, with a thumbnails view also available. Note – lots and lots of pictures!  (That's one reason to translate it. Another is that is short. And another is that Galileo talks about it a lot.)

Chris tells me that he translated Locher with an eye for classroom use as well as scholarly use – lots of students, at lots of different levels (even advanced high school) are assigned readings from Galileo's Dialogue in classes ranging from history, to history and philosophy of science, to introductory astronomy; now they can read the words of one of the people Galileo was attacking, too.

Chris comments: "What is surprising (after reading Galileo) is that Locher seems like a pretty sharp guy.  Maybe I am exceedingly optimistic, but I think this book is going to be cool, it is going to revise a lot of teaching, and teachers and scholars both are going to like it and find it useful."

Across the Universe: Forced Perspective

This column first ran in The Tablet in January, 2013

Over New Years [2013], Pope Benedict welcomed 40,000 attendees to the Taizé Youth Gathering in Rome. A few days later, a somewhat smaller number of them attended my workshop on the life and faith of an astronomer. My setting for the talk most appropriate: the marvelous Jesuit church of St. Ignatius.

There are a number of astronomical connections to this church. It was designed in the 1600s by Orazio Grassi, a Jesuit priest who was also quite a good astronomer, the first to observe a comet with a telescope. (Galileo never forgave him for that scoop.)

Cardinal Bellarmine is buried beneath an altar of the church. Just two years before Grassi’s comets, Galileo had been questioned by Bellarmine, who finally gave him a document certifying that he was no heretic. Bellarmine wasn’t convinced of Galileo’s science, however; the heliocentric system was a radical change, and accepting it then would have been like overthrowing Einstein today. Bellarmine felt, correctly, that Galileo hadn’t proved his point. The fact that in the long run Galileo was proved right and Bellarmine wrong was no fault of either, given the state of the evidence at the time.

Church of St. Ignatius in Rome. The dome seems poorly lit but otherwise nothing special...

The Church of St. Ignatius is most famous for its very odd dome. It’s not real; they ran out of money, and so they built a flat roof and then a Jesuit brother, Andrea Pozzo, painted the ceiling in marvelous forced perspective so that it looks just like a real dome… from certain points of view, anyway.

Looking straight up at the dome. The character with the beard really is 3-D; the dome, not so much.

But since it was built with massive pillars designed to hold the weight of a dome, with no dome itself, in the 1850’s Fr. Angelo Secchi could built telescopes atop each pillar. With them he observed the planets, naming “canali” on Mars, and did pioneering observations of the Sun. But his most remarkable work was to put a prism in the light path of his telescope and turn every dot of starlight into a rainbow. He saw how different stars had different spectra, and he classified more than five thousand this way. Suddenly, astronomy became the study of what stars and planets were made of. From the roof of this church, Secchi became the father of astrophysics.

Sitting in this church you are strongly reminded of perspective… how it can fool us, or make us see things in a new way. From just the right place you get the dome's full effect; look from a different spot, and you can appreciate how the artist did it.

Do we learn truth from science, or from religion? Like that dome, you really only get the full picture when you have more than one point of view.

But one point of view is an illusion – there is no real dome! Yes; if you only have one point of view you might well be fooled to interpret what you see as something different from what it really is.

Yet here’s an odd thing about illusion. Granted, it is not real. But real domes do exist. And if you didn’t know real domes, then this illusion wouldn’t work. You wouldn’t know what it is you were supposed to be seeing.

All our scientific descriptions of nature are, ultimately, illusions. They are incomplete sketches; idealizations of the real thing; not “literally true.” After all, even a physics equation is only a metaphor for the activity it describes. The math is not the truth. But it points us to the truth.

Likewise all our descriptions of God can only be poetry; no mere words can describe that which is beyond description. But like that painting on the ceiling, a good piece of art – and science is ultimately a masterful piece of human art – can lead our imaginations beyond mortal bounds into realms that we can only glimpse from afar.

Also in Across the Universe

  1. Across the Universe: What’s in a Name?
  2. Across the Universe: Fools from the East
  3. Across the Universe: Hunches
  4. Across the Universe: Desert or a dessert?
  5. Across the Universe: Stardust messages
  6. Across the Universe: The best way to travel
  7. Across the Universe: Original Proof
  8. Across the Universe: Pearls among Swine
  9. Across the Universe: One Fix Leads to Another
  10. Across the Universe: Limits to Understanding
  11. Across the Universe: Words, Words, Worlds: Have We Found Planet X?
  12. Across the Universe: The Glory of a Giant
  13. Across the Universe: Fire and Ice
  14. Across the Universe: Science as Story
  15. Across the Universe: Recognition
  16. Across the Universe: Tending Towards Paganism
  17. Across the Universe: The Ethics of Extraterrestrials
  18. Across the Universe: Orbiting a New Sun
  19. Across the Universe: Seeing the Light
  20. Across the Universe: DIY Religion
  21. Across the Universe: Truth, Beauty, and a Good Lawyer
  22. Across the Universe: Techie Dreams
  23. Across the Universe: By Paper, to the Stars
  24. Across the Universe: Transit of Venus
  25. Across the Universe: Ordinary Time
  26. Across the Universe: Deep Impact
  27. Across the Universe: New Worlds
  28. Across the Universe: Tom Swift and his Helium Pycnometer
  29. Across the Universe: Tradition… and Pluto
  30. Across the Universe: Bucks or Buck Rogers?
  31. Across the Universe: Key to the Sea and Sky
  32. Across the Universe: Off The Beach
  33. Across the Universe: All of the Above
  34. From the Tablet: Tales of Earthlings
  35. Across the Universe: Heavenly peace?
  36. Across the Universe: Help My Unbelief
  37. Across the Universe: Stories of Another World
  38. Across the Universe: Planetary Counsels
  39. Across the Universe: Words that Change Reality
  40. Across the Universe: New Heavens, New Earth
  41. Across the Universe: Souvenirs from Space
  42. Across the Universe: For the love of the stars…
  43. Across the Universe: Spicy planet stories
  44. Across the Universe: Asking the right questions
  45. Across the Universe: Everything You Know Is Wrong
  46. Across the Universe: Errata
  47. Across the Universe: Clouds of Unknowing
  48. Across the Universe: Being Asked the Right Questions
  49. Across the Universe: Recognizing the Star
  50. Across the Universe: Heavenly Visitors
  51. Across the Universe: Christmas Presence
  52. Across the Universe: When Reason Itself Becomes Flesh
  53. Across the Universe: Spinning our Hopes
  54. Across the Universe: Relish the Red Planet
  55. Across the Universe: Obedience
  56. Across the Universe: Traveling Light
  57. Across the Universe: The Still Voice in the Chaos
  58. Across the Universe: Europa
  59. Across the Universe: Defamiliarization
  60. Across the Universe: Forbidden Transitions
  61. Across the Universe: Genre and Truth
  62. Across the Universe: False Economies
  63. Across the Universe: Reflections on a Mirror
  64. Across the Universe: Japan
  65. From the Tablet: Why is Easter So Early This Year?
  66. Across the Universe: Oops!
  67. Across the Universe: Dramatic Science
  68. Across the Universe: Me and My Shadows
  69. Across the Universe: Touch the Sky
  70. Across the Universe: Treasure from Heaven
  71. Across the Universe: Gift of Tongues
  72. Across the Universe: Maverick Genius
  73. Across the Universe: Awareness
  74. Across the Universe: Friends in high places
  75. Across the Universe: A Moving Experience
  76. Across the Universe: Grain of truth
  77. Across the Universe: Clerical Work
  78. Across the Universe: Teaching new stars
  79. Across the Universe: Science for the Masses
  80. Across the Universe: Changelings
  81. Across the Universe: Three Lunatic Answers
  82. Across the Universe: Dawn of My Belief
  83. Across the Universe: Martian Sunrise
  84. Across the Universe: Under the Southern Cross
  85. Across the Universe: Clouds from Both Sides
  86. Across the Universe: The Year (2011) in Astronomy
  87. Across the Universe: Jabberwocky and the Curious Cat
  88. Across the Universe: Waiting for the Call
  89. From the Tablet: God is dead; long live the eternal God
  90. Across the Universe: Taking the Heat
  91. Across the Universe: Stellar Round Up
  92. A Damp Kaboom
  93. Across the Universe: Featureless Features
  94. Across the Universe: Confronting Fear and Terror
  95. Across the Universe: Eye Candy
  96. Across the Universe: The New Paganism
  97. Across the Universe: Immigrant Stars
  98. Across the Universe: Heavenly Visitors
  99. Across the Universe: Christmas Presence
  100. Across the Universe: When reason itself becomes flesh
  101. Across the Universe: Recognizing the Star
  102. Across the Universe: Awaiting the stars
  103. Across the Universe: Tides in our affairs
  104. Across the Universe: A Piece of the Action
  105. Across the Universe: Forced Perspective

View the entire series

New Named Asteroids – Jan. 12, 2017

Asteroid 21 Lutetia. Credit: ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Each month (or thereabouts), the IAU Minor Planet Center publishes a PDF document containing an extensive list of asteroid and comet observations. At the bottom of this document is a list of newly named asteroids.

Asteroids have been named after: scientists (Br. Guy Consolmagno, Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson) and fictional characters (Sauron, Achilles), cities (Barcelona, Chicago), and entertainers (Freddie Mercury, Monty Python, Wil Wheaton), science and engineering fair winning students, and space mission specialists (a boatload of OSIRIS-REx mission team members got asteroids named after them). The Warren Astronomical Society and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific both have asteroids named after them.

While doing research for my lecture on asteroids, I got to know an astronomer who worked at the Catalina Sky Survey; through him, I was able to get an asteroid named after my wife: 117852 Constance (2005 JG151). Each citation is allowed a short description of the recipient; sometimes it can be difficult to extol the virtues of a recipient in the space of two "tweets."

Connie's citation reads:
117852 Constance = 2005 JG151
Discovered 2005 May 3 by the Catalina Sky Survey.
Constance L. Martin-Trembley (b. 1962) has been a beloved and inspirational science teacher for over a decade. Connie has organized educational trips, run an after school book club and science club, and has a passion for astronomy. She was awarded Teacher of the year for her district in 2007.

Here are the new named minor planets for Jan. 12, 2017:

(6406) Mikejura = 1992 MJ
Discovered 1992 June 28 by H. E. Holt at Palomar.
Michael Jura (1947–2016) was as an American astronomer and UCLA professor whose work on polluted white dwarfs first enabled the measurement of the chemical compositions of extrasolar asteroids.

(6466) Drewesquivel = 1979 MU8
Discovered 1979 June 25 by E. F. Helin and S. J. Bus at Siding Spring.
Drew Esquivel (1995–2016), a devoted student, mentor, leader, and outstanding athlete on wrestling and swimming teams, enjoyed sharing his skills and passion for software development with his peers at MIT and the Summer Science Program, and with the community at large via mobile applications and online tutoring.

(7156) Flaviofusipecci = 1981 EC2
Discovered 1981 Mar. 4 by H. Debehogne and G. De Sanctis at the European Southern Observatory.
Flavio Fusi Pecci (b. 1948) is an Italian astrophysicist who has made major contributions to the study of globular clusters. He was director of the Bologna and Cagliari astronomical observatories.

(9649) Junfukue = 1995 XG
Discovered 1995 Dec. 2 by T. Kobayashi at Oizumi.
Jun Fukue (b. 1956), professor at Osaka Kyoiku University, works on theoretical studies concerning accretion disks embedded in quasars and black holes. He also has engaged in science outreach and has published many popular-level books on astronomy.

(9791) Kamiyakurai = 1995 YD1
Discovered 1995 Dec. 21 by T. Kobayashi at Oizumi.
Yakuraisan, popularly called Kami Fuji, is a mountain located in the town of Kami in northeastern Japan. People come here to enjoy beautiful seasonal nature, flowers and starry nights.

(9792) Nonodakesan = 1996 BX1
Discovered 1996 Jan. 23 by T. Kobayashi at Oizumi.
Nonodakesan is a mountain located in the town of Wakuya in northeastern Japan. Konpo-ji Temple, popularly called Nonodake Kannon, was constructed on the summit of Nonodake in the eighth century.

(9804) Shrikulkarni = 1997 NU
Discovered 1997 July 1 by E. O. Ofek at Wise.
Shrinivas Kulkarni (b. 1956) was a co-discoverer of the first millisecond pulsar, the first optical counterpart of a binary pulsar, the first pulsar in a globular cluster, the extragalactic origin of gamma-ray bursts and the first brown dwarf. He founded the Palomar Transient Factory and the Zwicky Transient Facility.

(9977) Kentakunimoto = 1994 AH
Discovered 1994 Jan. 2 by T. Kobayashi at Oizumi.
Kenta Kunimoto (b. 1960) is a Japanese neurosurgeon and a specialist in emergency medicine. He is the medical director of the Kitamurayama Hospital in Yamagata Prefecture.

(10791) Uson = 1992 CS
Discovered 1992 Feb. 8 by T. Seki at Geisei.
Uson Morishita (1890–1965), born in Sagawa, Kochi prefecture, was one of the earliest mystery writers in Japan. He wrote many novels, mentored young writers, and is called the father of Japanese mystery novels.

(11294) Kazu = 1992 CK
Discovered 1992 Feb. 4 by T. Seki at Geisei.
Kazumasa Imai (b. 1955) is a Japanese radio astronomer at Kochi National College of Technology. He specializes in Jupiter radio science and made the first model to explain the modulation lanes of Jupiter’s decametric radio emissions.

(12663) Bj¨orkegren = 1978 RL7
Discovered 1978 Sept. 2 by C.-I. Lagerkvist at the European Southern Observatory.
Named after the family Bj¨orkegren, friends and neigbours of the discoverer’s summer house on Gotland.

(12749) Odokaigan = 1993 CB
Discovered 1993 Feb. 2 by T. Seki at Geisei.
Odokaigan is a beach on the Otsuki Peninsula at the south-western tip of Shikoku, Japan. It boasts a spectacular view of the coast with a line of 80-meter-tall cliffs and tower-like rock formations projected above the water.

(15810) Arawn = 1994 JR1
Discovered 1994 May 12 by M. J. Irwin and A. Zytkow at La Palma.
The Middle Welsh Pedair Cainc Y Mabinogi (Four Branches of the Mabinogi) describes Arawn as the ruler of the Celtic otherworld, Annwn.

(15853) Benedettafoglia = 1996 BB13
Discovered 1996 Jan. 16 by U. Munari and M. Tombelli at Cima Ekar.
Benedetta Foglia (b. 2006) is the second daughter of Sergio and Paola Diomede, friends of the discoverers. Benedetta is an amateur astronomer.

(16598) Brugmansia = 1992 YC2
Discovered 1992 Dec. 18 by E. W. Elst at Caussols.
Named for a genus of flowering plants in the family Solanaceae. They are woody trees or shrubs, with pendulous flowers, and have no spines on their fruit. Their large, fragrant flowers give them their common name of “angel’s trumpets.”

(16680) Minamitanemachi = 1994 EP3
Discovered 1994 Mar. 14 by K. Endate and K. Watanabe at Kitami.
Minamitanemachi is a town located in the southern part of Tanegashima Island, Kagoshima. It is well-known as the town where a gun was introduced to Japan for the first time in 1543. It is also known for the Tanegashima Space Center.

(18289) Yokoyamakoichi = 1976 UB16
Discovered 1976 Oct. 22 by H. Kosai and K. Hurukawa at Kiso.
Koichi Yokoyama (b. 1940) is a professor emeritus of the National Astronomical observatory, Japan. He was Director of the International Polar Motion Service (1981–1987) and first chairman of the directing board of the International Earth Rotation Service. He also improved the nutation tables.

(18399) Tentoumushi = 1992 WK1
Discovered 1992 Nov. 17 by K. Endate and K. Watanabe at Kitami.
The Tentoumushi astronomy club was named after the seven-starred ladybug. The club received an award from the city of Komatsu for its astronomy popularization.

(18524) Tagatoshihiro = 1996 VE8
Discovered 1996 Nov. 6 by K. Endate and K. Watanabe at Kitami.
Toshihiro Taga (b. 1951) is a Japanese amateur astronomer and president of the Tottori Society of Astronomy. He is a popularizer of astronomy.

(19288) Egami = 1996 FJ5
Discovered 1996 Mar. 20 by K. Endate and K. Watanabe at Kitami.
Katsunori Egami (b. 1959) is the leader of the astronomical volunteers at the Fukuoka Science Museum. He is well-known throughout Kyushu as a collector of meteorites.

(19303) Chinacyo = 1996 TP1
Discovered 1996 Oct. 5 by K. Endate and K. Watanabe at Kitami.
Chinacyo town is on Okinoerabujima island, one of the Amami Islands, in Kagoshima Prefecture in the southern Japan.

(19953) Takeo = 1982 VU2
Discovered 1982 Nov. 14 by H. Kosai and K. Hurukawa at Kiso.
Takeo is a city in Saga prefecture on Kyushu island in Japan, surrounded by mountains. Takeo is famous for hot springs and ceramics. In the 19th century, the Lord of Takeo was very interested in astronomy and eagerly accepted Western culture.

(19954) Shigeyoshi = 1982 VY3
Discovered 1982 Nov. 14 by H. Kosai and K. Hurukawa at Kiso.
Shigeyoshi Nabeshima (1800–1862) was the 28th lord of Takeo area, Saga domain in the 19th century. He imported globes and astronomical telescopes, and introduced foreign studies including astronomy. He is respected as a local hero, called “Shigeyoshi-kou” in Takeo.

(20243) Den Bosch = 1998 DB36
Discovered 1998 Feb. 25 by E. W. Elst at the European Southern Observatory.
Den Bosch (s-Hertogenbosch) is the capital of the province of North Brabant in the Netherlands. The city flourished in the 15th century, although it was nearly completely destroyed by a catastrophic fire in 1463. The painter Hieronymus Bosch lived almost his entire life in Den Bosch.

(22280) Mandragora = 1985 CD2
Discovered 1985 Feb. 12 by H. Debehogne at the European Southern Observatory.
Named for a genus belonging to the nightshade family (Solanaceae). Members of the genus are known as mandrakes. They are perennial herbaceous plants, with large tap-roots and leaves in the form of a rosette. Individual flowers are bell-shaped, whitish through to violet, and are followed by yellow or orange berries.

(22383) Nikolauspacassi = 1994 EL
Discovered 1994 Mar. 5 at Farra d’Isonzo.
Nikolaus Franz Leonhard von Pacassi (1716–1790) was an Austrian architect of Italian origin. He was appointed court architect to Maria Theresa of Austria and designed notable buildings in Vienna, Prague, Buda and Gorizia.

(24945) Houziaux = 1997 LH9
Discovered 1997 June 7 by E. W. Elst at the European Southern Observatory.
L´eo Houziaux (b. 1932), a Belgian astrophysicist at Li`ege University, specialized in stellar structure at Mt. Wilson and Palomar. From rockets and satellites, he obtained the spectra and fluxes from over 30 000 stars. He created the Department of Astrophysics at Mons University (B) in 1982.

(27718) Gouda = 1989 GH3
Discovered 1989 Apr. 2 by E. W. Elst at the European Southern Observatory.
Gouda, a city in the South Holland province of the Netherlands, was founded in 1272. The city is well known for its yellow-colored Gouda cheese, one of the oldest known cheeses in world, first mentioned in 1184. The Gouda cheese market, held on Thursdays, is a tourist attraction.

(28251) Gerbaldi = 1999 BW13
Discovered 1999 Jan. 20 by ODAS at Caussols.
Michele Gerbaldi (b. 1944) is a French astronomer specializing in stellar astrophysics. She worked at the Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris from 1968 to 2007. She is one of the founding member of CLEA (Comit´e de Liaison Enseignants et Astronomes) and has also been very active in the IAU’s ISYA program.

(28547) Johannschr¨oter = 2000 EB21
Discovered 2000 Mar. 3 by the Catalina Sky Survey.
Johann Hieronymus Schr¨oter (1745–1816) was a lunar astronomer influenced by William Herschel and who later influenced Karl Ludwig Harding and Fredrich Wilhelm Bessel. He published his seminal work on lunar topography entitled Selenotopographische Fragmente zur genauern Kenntniss der Mondfl¨ache in 1791.

(29508) Botinelli = 1997 XR8
Discovered 1997 Dec. 7 by ODAS at Caussols.
Lucette Botinelli (1937–2015) was a French radio astronomer from Meudon Observatory, who taught at Orsay University from 1962 to 2005. Observing the 21 cm line of galaxies, she helped reconcile the then-divergent values of the Hubble constant. She is a founding member of the Comit´e de Liaison Enseignants et Astronomes.

(29633) Weatherwax = 1998 VH2
Discovered 1998 Nov. 10 by ODAS at Caussols.
Craig (b. 1947) and Leigh (b. 1947) Weatherwax have helped the astronomy community in southern California for more than 40 years. They are good friends of the discoverer and this naming is on the occasion of their retirement.

(29696) Distasio = 1998 YN
Discovered 1998 Dec. 16 by ODAS at Caussols.
Penny Distasio (b. 1955) is an amateur astronomer and author. She ran the OPTAS astronomy club for 15 years and is now a content writer for many web sites related to astronomy.

(29725) Mikewest = 1999 AC25
Discovered 1999 Jan. 15 by ODAS at Caussols.
Michael West (b. 1954) has served amateur astronomers for more than 30 years with his expertise, advice, encouragement and unwavering commitment to the astronomical community.

(30094) Rolfebode = 2000 ER141
Discovered 2000 Mar. 2 by the Catalina Sky Survey.
Rolfe Bode (b. 1959) is an aerospace engineer who has worked on many NASA missions including MPL-MVACS and the Phoenix Mars mission at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and private space companies including Paragon Space Development Corp. and World View Enterprises.

(30095) Tarabode = 2000 EU145
Discovered 2000 Mar. 3 by the Catalina Sky Survey.
Tara Bode (b. 1975) has been the long-time business manager at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and the Department of Planetary Sciences. She has provided vital support for numerous planetary scientists, staff, students, programs and spacecraft missions.

(30096) Glindadavidson = 2000 EZ147
Discovered 2000 Mar. 4 by the Catalina Sky Survey.
Glinda Davidson (b. 1963) is a long-time business manager, contracts and budget expert at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and the Department of Planetary Sciences. She has provided essential support for numerous planetary scientists, staff, students and spacecraft missions.

(32618) Leungkamcheung = 2001 QL293
Discovered 2001 Aug. 31 by W. K. Y. Yeung at Desert Eagle.
Leungkamcheung (b. 1956) is a former President of the Hong Kong Astronomical Society. He contributed to the popularization and education of astronomy in Hong Kong. He is one of the pioneers in establishing astronomical research collaborations between amateur and professional astronomers in the region.

(34995) Dainihonshi = 1977 DP2
Discovered 1977 Feb. 18 by H. Kosai and K. Hurukawa at Kiso.
The Dai Nihonshi is a historical record of Japan, comprising 397 volumes, covering the period from Emperor Jimmu (c. 650 BCE) to Emperor Go-Komatsu (1377–1433).

(34996) Mitokoumon = 1977 DH4
Discovered 1977 Feb. 18 by H. Kosai and K. Hurukawa at Kiso.
Mitokoumon is a popular name of Mitsukuni Tokugara (1628–1701), a vice Shogun of the Tokugawa family and a lord of the Mito domain.

(39734) Marchiori = 1996 XG26
Discovered 1996 Dec. 14 by F. Manca and P. Chiavenna at Sormano.
Gianpietro Marchiori (b. 1953) is the founder of EIE Group, an Italian company that has been involved in the construction of optical and radio telescopes around the world. Under his enthusiastic management, projects such as VLT, LBT, ALMA and E-ELT were developed.

(39991) Iochroma = 1998 HR37
Discovered 1998 Apr. 20 by the Lincoln Laboratory Near-Earth Asteroid Research Team at Socorro.
Named for a genus of shrubs and small trees found in the forests of South America. Their hummingbird-pollinated flowers are tubular or trumpet-shaped. Iochromas are often cultivated as flowering ornamentals.

(42566) Ryutaro = 1996 XQ25
Discovered 1996 Dec. 3 by T. Seki at Geisei.
Ryutaro Hirota (1892–1952), a renowned Japanese composer, was born in Aki city, Kochi prefecture and studied musical composition at Tokyo Music School. He composed many children’s songs, which have been enjoyed by many generations of Japanese.

(43597) Changshaopo = 2001 QT163
Discovered 2001 Aug. 31 by W. K. Y. Yeung at Desert Eagle.
Changshaopo (b. 1932) is a Marist brother who served as the principal of St. Francis Xavier’s School in Hong Kong from 1974 to 1997. He devoted himself to educating the younger generation, practicing the school’s motto “Integrity and Universal Love”.

(43935) Danshechtman = 1996 TF
Discovered 1996 Oct. 1 by V. S. Casulli at Colleverde.
Dan Shechtman (b. 1941) is an Israeli physicist who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2011.

(44355) Thijsdegraauw = 1998 ST2
Discovered 1998 Sept. 18 by V. S. Casulli at Colleverde.
Thijs de Graauw (b. 1942) is a German astronomer who is Director of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array.

(52260) Ureshino = 1982 KA
Discovered 1982 May 22 by H. Kosai and K. Hurukawa at Kiso.
Ureshino is a city located in Saga prefecture, Kyushu island, Japan. In legend, Ureshino’s name came from the Empress Jingu, who upon seeing the wounds of her injured soldiers completely healed by its hot springs, exclaimed “Ana, Ureshi” (“I am happy”). Ureshino became famous for its natural hot springs in the 8th century.

(52261) Izumishikibu = 1982 VL4
Discovered 1982 Nov. 14 by H. Kosai and K. Hurukawa at Kiso.
Izumi Shikibu is a Japanese poet from the 11th century. She wrote “Izumi Shikibu Nikki”, which was a notable diary containing waka poems about her affairs with the Imperial Prince. It is said that she was born in Shiroishi district and spent her younger days in Shiota in Saga Prefecture, Japan.

(52558) Pigafetta = 1997 FR
Discovered 1997 Mar. 27 by V. S. Casulli at Colleverde.
Antonio Pigafetta (c. 1492—c. 1531) was an Italian navigator and geographer. He participated in the first circumnavigation of the globe from 1519 to 1522.

(53843) Antjiekrog = 2000 FG10
Discovered 2000 Mar. 30 at Colleverde.
Antjie Krog (b. 1952) is a South African writer. She has received many awards, including the South African Translators’ Institute Award for Outstanding Translation.

(58498) Octaviopaz = 1996 VF
Discovered 1996 Nov. 2 by V. S. Casulli at Colleverde.
Octavio Paz Lozano (1914–1998) was a Mexican poet and essayist, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990.

(59389) Oskarvonmiller = 1999 FF21
Discovered 1999 Mar. 24 by L. Kornoˇs and J. T´oth at Modra.
Oskar von Miller (1855–1934) was a German engineer and founder of Deutsches Museum M¨unchen. He managed and built the then-largest high pressure hydroelectric power station and proposed the world’s first projection planetarium, MODEL I (1925). Name suggested by the Deutsches Museum M¨unchen.

(60609) Kerryprice = 2000 EA175
Discovered 2000 Mar. 2 by the Catalina Sky Survey.
Kerry Price (b. 1939) is an accomplished jazz singer who has performed with numerous dixieland jazz bands in southern Michigan over the last 50 years. She is also the music director for a church in suburban Detroit, Michigan.

(60614) Tomshea = 2000 EU198
Discovered 2000 Mar. 1 by the Catalina Sky Survey.
Thomas William Shea (1931–1982) was an American ragtime composer best known for his “prairie ragtime” style and the more than 20 “rags” he composed. He was active in ragtime and jazz in the Detroit, Michigan area throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

(66583) Nicandra = 1999 RL156
Discovered 1999 Sept. 9 by the Lincoln Laboratory Near-Earth Asteroid Research Team at Socorro.
Named for a monotypic genus of flowering plants in the nightshade family containing the single species Nicandra physalodes. While the genus is named for Greek poet Nicander, it is known by the common names “apple-of-Peru” and “shoo-fly plant.” Its flowers are bell-shaped, pale violet with white throats.

(73686) Nussdorf = 1990 TV1
Discovered 1990 Oct. 10 by L. D. Schmadel and F. B¨orngen at Tautenburg.
Named after the abundant walnut trees, Nussdorf is a village in south-western Germany’s Palatinate. Nussdorf was first mentioned in the year 802 and is well known for its wine-growing tradition and for its pursuit for harmony between nature and culture.

(73699) Landaupfalz = 1991 TH3
Discovered 1991 Oct. 4 by L. D. Schmadel and F. B¨orngen at Tautenburg.
Landau/Pfalz is a German university town in southern Rhineland-Palatinate, embedded in vineyards and surrounded by wine-growing villages. First mentioned in 1106, Landau became one of Europe’s strongest citadels under French rule in the 17th century. Landau has a rich landscape of gardens and parks.

(73701) Siegfriedbauer = 1991 TU5
Discovered 1991 Oct. 3 by L. D. Schmadel and F. B¨orngen at Tautenburg.
Siegfried J. Bauer (b. 1930) is professor emeritus of meteorology and geophysics at the University of Graz, Austria. He was Associate Director of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and is a full member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. His research focuses on the atmospheres of Venus, Mars and Titan.

(79826) Finardi = 1998 WP2
Discovered 1998 Nov. 17 by V. Goretti at Pianoro.
Eugenio Finardi (b. 1952), is a famous Italian blues and pop rock singer. He is a great lover of astronomy and he has composed many popular space-related songs.

(84015) Efthymiopoulos = 2002 PV34
Discovered 2002 Aug. 5 by CINEOS at Campo Imperatore.
Christos Efthymiopoulos (b. 1971) is Research Director at the Research Center for Astronomy of the Academy of Athens, and teaches Dynamical Astronomy at the Physics Department of the University of Athens. He has served as Vice-President of the Hellenic Astronomical Society.

(100433) Hyakusyuko = 1996 KU1
Discovered 1996 May 24 by T. Okuni at Nanyo.
Nagai Hyakusyuko is the name of the dam lake in Nagai city, Yamagata Prefecture, Japan. It was completed in March 2011 and is a popular tourist spot.

(100732) Blankavalois = 1998 DQ
Discovered 1998 Feb. 19 by M. Tich´y at Kleˇt.
Blanka (or Blanche) de Valois (1316–1348) was the first wife of Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia Charles IV. They were married as children in 1329. Blanche gave birth to two daughters. Blanche’s brother became Philip VI, King of France.

(100733) Annafalck´a = 1998 DA1
Discovered 1998 Feb. 18 by M. Tich´y at Kleˇt.
Anna Falck´a (or Anne of the Palatinate, 1329–1353) was the second wife of Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia Charles IV. In 1350 she gave birth to a longdesired son, Wenceslaus, who, unfortunately, died a year later.

(100734) Annasv´ıdnick´a = 1998 DB1
Discovered 1998 Feb. 18 by M. Tich´y at Kleˇt.
Anna Sv´ıdnick´a (or Anna Swidnicka or von Schweidnitz, 1339–1362) was the third wife of Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia Charles IV. In 1361 she bore the desired successor to the throne, later King of Bohemia Wenceslaus IV.

(120741) Iijimayuichi = 1997 UJ22
Discovered 1997 Oct. 26 by N. Sato at Chichibu.
Yuichi Iijima (1968–2012) was a Japanese aerospace system engineer of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, who was one of the key members of the Japanese lunar orbiter SELENE.

(126780) Ivovasiljev = 2002 EP7
Discovered 2002 Mar. 10 by KLENOT at Kleˇt.
Ivo Vasiljev (b. 1935) is a Czech linguist, translator, teacher and orientalist dealing with the Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese languages. He co-authored The Czech-Vietnamese Learner’s Dictionary, and he participates in the work of the Linguistic Circle of Prague.

(126888) Tspitzer = 2002 EO100
Discovered 2002 Mar. 5 by the Catalina Sky Survey.
Thomas J. Spitzer (b. 1957) was the Electrical Power Systems Engineer on more than a dozen Goddard missions, including the highly successful Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter that re-mapped the moon, as well as the NASA OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission.

(129187) Danielalfred = 2005 LB50
Discovered 2005 June 11 by the Catalina Sky Survey.
Daniel Alfred (b. 1985) was the lead thermal engineer on OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission OCAMS camera system. He also worked as a Honeywell Aerospace mechanical engineer.

(134134) Kristoferdrozd = 2005 AU21
Discovered 2005 Jan. 6 by the Catalina Sky Survey.
Kristofer Drozd (b. 1993) is a systems engineering graduate student at the University of Arizona. On the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission, he was on the team tasked with testing the performance of the stereophotoclinometry software used for mapping and optical navigation.

(136432) Allenlunsford = 2005 EW20
Discovered 2005 Mar. 3 by the Catalina Sky Survey.
Allen Lunsford (b. 1968) is the OSIRIS-REx Visible and near InfraRed Spectrometer (OVIRS) algorithm lead, developing all instrument operation and calibration software, as well as leading testing. He also had roles on the New Horizons Ralph, Landsat 8 TIRS and Landsat 9 TIRS instruments.

(157693) Amandamarty = 2006 AB
Discovered 2006 Jan. 2 by A. Lowe at Mayhill.
Amanda Nicole Zawada (b. 1987) and Martin Peter Mackinlay (b. 1988) are geologists in Brisbane, Australia. Their engagement occurred on January 2, 2016, the ten-year anniversary of the discovery of this minor planet.

(175152) Marthafarkas = 2005 ET37
Discovered 2005 Mar. 3 by T. Glinos and D. Levy at the Jarnac Observatory, Vail.
Martha Farkas (b. 1959) is one of Canada’s most experienced amateur astronomers. Farkas prefers traditional visual observing of solar system and deep sky objects using small telescopes. She is an active participant in Ottawa area astronomy events and an enthusiastic promoter of the Adirondack Astronomy Retreat.

(175730) Gramastetten = 1998 DM1
Discovered 1998 Feb. 18 at Linz.
Nestled in the beautiful landscape of Muehlviertel (Upper Austria), Gramastetten is a resort for relaxing and for pleasure trips. Gramastetten is the site of an observatory outpost of the Linz public observatory.

(176014) Vedrana = 2000 RS106
Discovered 2000 Sept. 3 by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey at Apache Point.
Vedrana Ivezic (b. 2000), is an American amateur astronomer, oboe player and the daughter of SDSS team member Zeljko Ivezic.

(187531) Omorichugakkou = 2006 UM63
Discovered 2006 Oct. 20 by Y. Sorimachi and A. Nakajima at Nyukasa.
Omorichugakkou is the name of the junior high school in Suzaka-shi, Nagano prefecture, Japan. Students discovered this minor planet during one of the commemoration events for the 60th anniversary of the school’s founding.

(213255) Kimiyayui = 2001 EZ15
Discovered 2001 Mar. 15 by A. Nakamura at Kuma Kogen.
Enthusiastic amateur astronomer Kimiya Yui (b. 1970) was selected to be an astronaut candidate by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency in 2009, and was certified as an International Space Station (ISS) astronaut in 2011. On July 22, 2015, he flew to ISS and stayed in space for 141 days.

(219067) Bossuet = 1997 JB18
Discovered 1997 May 3 by E. W. Elst at the European Southern Observatory.
Jacques-B´enigne Bossuet (1627–1704), a French bishop and orator at the Cathedral of Meaux, is famous for his Discourse on Universal History (1681), written in a masterly French style.

(227152) Shujinakamura = 2005 PJ20
Discovered 2005 Aug. 5 by V. S. Casulli at Vallemare Borbona.
Shuji Nakamura (b. 1954) is a Japanese physicist who received the 2014 Nobel Prize for Physics for his discovery of neutrino oscillations, showing that the neutrino has mass.

(239716) Felixbaumgartner = 2009 BF12
Discovered 2009 Jan. 25 by R. Gierlinger at Gaisberg.
Felix Baumgartner (b. 1969) is an Austrian skydiver, extreme athlete and BASE jumper. He is known for his record-breaking free-fall parachute jump from an altitude of 39 km in 2012

(246821) Satyarthi = 2009 QW33
Discovered 2009 Aug. 27 by V. S. Casulli at Vallemare Borbona.
Kailash Satyarthi (b. 1954) is an Indian electrical engineer who received the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for for his advocacy of children’s rights and education and for his fight against child labor.

(255598) Paullauterbur = 2006 PE1
Discovered 2006 Aug. 13 by V. S. Casulli at Vallemare Borbona.
Paul Christian Lauterbur (1929–2007) was an American chemist who shared the 2003 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for discoveries that made possible the development of magnetic resonance imaging.

(276568) Joest¨ubler = 2003 ST217
Discovered 2003 Sept. 27 at Linz.
Johannes St¨ubler (b. 1958), an active amateur astronomer for decades, has been involved in public outreach activities in many national and international astronomical organizations, including the IAU. He has been a member of the Linzer Astronomische Gemeinschaft since 1979.

(284029) Esplugafrancoli = 2004 XQ16
Discovered 2004 Dec. 10 by J. Manteca at Begues.
The Italian city of Espluga de Francoli, Tarragona province, is famous for its long and deep cave systems.

(292872) Anoushankar = 2006 VV12
Discovered 2006 Nov. 12 by V. S. Casulli at Vallemare Borbona.
Anoushka Shankar (b. 1981) is an Indian sitar musician and composer.

(314808) Martindutertre = 2006 TQ105
Discovered 2006 Oct. 15 by L. Tesi and G. Fagioli at San Marcello.
St Martin-du-tertre is a French town to the north of Paris that is twinned with the municipality of San Marcello, the discovery site for this minor planet.

(346886) Middelburg = 2009 MB
Discovered 1999 Nov. 15 by E. W. Elst at Uccle.
Middelburg is an old Dutch city on the isle of Walcheren in the province of Zeeland that was built as a fortress against the Vikings. In the Middle Ages it was an important trading center between Flanders, France and England.

(352860) Monflier = 2008 WY96
Discovered 2008 Nov. 30 by M. Ory at Vicques.
Bruno Monflier (b. 1947) is an active promoter of scientific outreach in astronomy in France and abroad. He is the founder of “La Ferme des Etoiles”, where numerous astronomy classes are held for varied audiences. Since 1991, “La Ferme des Etoiles” has been organizing the well-known Festival d’Astronomie de Fleurance.

(391257) Wilwheaton = 2006 RL1
Discovered 2006 Sept. 12 by T. Pauwels at Uccle.
Richard William “Wil” Wheaton III (b. 1972) is an American actor and writer, best known for his role as Wesley Crusher on the television series “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. He also has a long track record of supporting various charity organizations, such as the Pasadena Humane Society and Project UROK.

(398045) Vitudurum = 2009 FN19
Discovered 2009 Mar. 21 by M. Griesser at Winterthur.
Vitudurum was a Roman neighborhood that was built around 1 CE in today’s district of Oberwinterthur in the Swiss city of Winterthur. From 294 CE, a fort protected the settlement from raids by the Alemanni. Name suggested by Sina Lautenschlager.

(418891) Vizi = 2008 YK148
Discovered 2008 Dec. 31 by K. S´arneczky at Piszk´estet˝o.
Szilveszter E. Vizi (b. 1936) is a Hungarian physician, neuroscientist, pharmacologist and university professor, who served as President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences between 2002 and 2008. He is the winner of the 2016 Honoris causa science communication award of the Club of Hungarian Science Journalists.

(429084) Dietrichrex = 2009 RN27
Discovered 2009 Sept. 13 by M. Busch and R. Kresken at ESA OGS.
Dietrich Rex (1934–2016) was a German physicist, university professor and head of the Spaceflight and Reactor Technology Institute of the Technical University of Braunschweig. He pioneered space debris research in Europe and fostered world-wide cooperation in the field.

(456677) Yepeijian = 2007 RM119
Discovered 2007 Sept. 11 by PMO NEO Survey Program at XuYi.
Ye Peijian (b. 1945), an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, specializes in spacecraft and information processing. As chief designer and adviser, he made pioneering contributions to the development of remote sensing, lunar and space exploration and space science in China.

(458063) Gustavomuler = 2009 YB7
Discovered 2009 Dec. 21 by E. Schwab at Tzec Maun.
Gustavo Muler (b. 1967) is a Spanish amateur astronomer, born in Argentina. He has discovered numerous minor planets at his private observatory Nazaret on Lanzarote Island and in 2007 he confirmed the outburst of Comet 17P/Holmes. He made follow-up observations of this minor planet.

Source: http://www.minorplanetcenter.net/iau/ECS/MPCArchive/2017/MPC_20170112.pdf

Curiosity Rover Examines Possible Mud Cracks Preserved in Martian Rock

The network of cracks in this Martian rock slab called "Old Soaker" may have formed from the drying of a mud layer more than 3 billion years ago. The view spans about 3 feet (90 centimeters) left-to-right and combines three images taken by the MAHLI camera on the arm of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

I saw this image and immediately thought: dried mud; then I saw where the image came from: the Curiosity Rover on Mars! Reports of water having once flowed in Mars' ancient past, currently flowing seasonally, and as sub-surface ices have been numerous over the past few years.

On Earth, "where there's water, there's life;" and water has been found everywhere in the solar system. The Mars 2020 rover will have scientific instruments used to search for signs of past life on the red planet.

From JPL Press Release 2017-009:

Scientists used NASA's Curiosity Mars rover in recent weeks to examine slabs of rock cross-hatched with shallow ridges that likely originated as cracks in drying mud.

"Mud cracks are the most likely scenario here," said Curiosity science team member Nathan Stein. He is a graduate student at Caltech in Pasadena, California, who led the investigation of a site called "Old Soaker," on lower Mount Sharp, Mars.

Curiosity Landing Location on Mars

The Curiosity rover landing location is directly in the center of this image of Mars - near the "U" shaped crater. Credit: NASA Eyes on the Solar System / Bob Trembley

If this interpretation holds up, these would be the first mud cracks -- technically called desiccation cracks -- confirmed by the Curiosity mission. They would be evidence that the ancient era when these sediments were deposited included some drying after wetter conditions. Curiosity has found evidence of ancient lakes in older, lower-lying rock layers and also in younger mudstone that is above Old Soaker.

"Even from a distance, we could see a pattern of four- and five-sided polygons that don't look like fractures we've seen previously with Curiosity," Stein said. "It looks like what you'd see beside the road where muddy ground has dried and cracked."

The cracked layer formed more than 3 billion years ago and was subsequently buried by other layers of sediment, all becoming stratified rock. Later, wind erosion stripped away the layers above Old Soaker. Material that had filled the cracks resisted erosion better than the mudstone around it, so the pattern from the cracking now appears as raised ridges.

The team used Curiosity to examine the crack-filling material. Cracks that form at the surface, such as in drying mud, generally fill with windblown dust or sand. A different type of cracking with plentiful examples found by Curiosity occurs after sediments have hardened into rock. Pressure from accumulation of overlying sediments can cause underground fractures in the rock. These fractures generally have been filled by minerals delivered by groundwater circulating through the cracks, such as bright veins of calcium sulfate.

Both types of crack-filling material were found at Old Soaker. This may indicate multiple generations of fracturing: mud cracks first, with sediment accumulating in them, then a later episode of underground fracturing and vein forming.

"If these are indeed mud cracks, they fit well with the context of what we're seeing in the section of Mount Sharp Curiosity has been climbing for many months," said Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. "The ancient lakes varied in depth and extent over time, and sometimes disappeared. We're seeing more evidence of dry intervals between what had been mostly a record of long-lived lakes."

A grid of small polygons on the Martian rock surface near the right edge of this view may have originated as cracks in drying mud more than 3 billion years ago. Multiple Dec. 20, 2016, images from the Mastcam on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover were combined for this view of a rock called "Squid Cove."
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Besides the cracks that are likely due to drying, other types of evidence observed in the area include sandstone layers interspersed with the mudstone layers, and the presence of a layering pattern called cross-bedding. This pattern can form where water was flowing more vigorously near the shore of a lake, or from windblown sediment during a dry episode.

Scientists are continuing to analyze data acquired at the possible mud cracks and also watching for similar-looking sites. They want to check for clues not evident at Old Soaker, such as the cross-sectional shape of the cracks.

The rover has departed that site, heading uphill toward a future rock-drilling location. Rover engineers at JPL are determining the best way to resume use of the rover's drill, which began experiencing intermittent problems last month with the mechanism that moves the drill up and down during drilling.

Curiosity landed near Mount Sharp in 2012. It reached the base of the mountain in 2014 after successfully finding evidence on the surrounding plains that ancient Martian lakes offered conditions that would have been favorable for microbes if Mars has ever hosted life. Rock layers forming the base of Mount Sharp accumulated as sediment within ancient lakes billions of years ago.

On Mount Sharp, Curiosity is investigating how and when the habitable ancient conditions known from the mission's earlier findings evolved into conditions drier and less favorable for life. For more information about Curiosity, visit:


Guy Webster
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-6278 / 818-393-9011

Laurie Cantillo / Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1077 / 202-358-1726
laura.l.cantillo@nasa.gov / dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov

This view of a Martian rock slab called "Old Soaker," which has a network of cracks that may have originated in drying mud, comes from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. It was taken on Dec. 20, 2016. The slab is about 4 feet long.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Monsignor Bouchet’s Telescope

Astronomy pops up in unexpected places.  Consider, for example, this fantastic old refracting telescope:

This telescope has an aperture of roughly 4 inches (10 centimeters).  The tube appears to be brass.  The telescope has a very stout wooden case, visible in the picture above.  The picture below gives another view of the telescope, the case (now open), and an eyepiece for the telescope (lying to the left of the telescope).

Two “close-up” photos of the eyepiece. This is the only existing eyepiece for the telescope.

Two “close-up” photos of the eyepiece. This is the only existing eyepiece for the telescope.

By now you have probably noticed the telescope’s surroundings, namely the monstrances and crucifix on display in the background.  Why is an old telescope sitting on a table, surrounded by religious articles?  Because this is the telescope of Monsignor Michael Bouchet (1827 to 1903), former vicar-general of the Diocese of Louisville, Kentucky.  It is housed within the Bishop Benedict Joseph Flaget Library, which itself is part of the Archdiocesan History Center of Louisville’s Cathedral of the Assumption.  Tim Tomes, a parishioner at the Cathedral who does a lot of work with the History Center, introduced me to the telescope this past December.

The eyepiece end of the telescope says “Made by A.C. Schumann Louisville, KY.” 

The eyepiece end of the telescope says “Made by A.C. Schumann Louisville, KY.”  A.C. Schuman was apparently a nineteenth-century builder of various instruments, such as compasses, microscopes, and calculating machines.  The knob that projects toward the right in these photographs adjusts the focus of the telescope.

Other instruments made by A.C. Schuman of Louisville. These are from screenshots from Bidsquare.com and Prices4Anitiques.com.

Other instruments made by A.C. Schuman of Louisville. These are from screenshots from Bidsquare.com and Prices4Anitiques.com.

The telescope is still functional.  I got to look through it and can testify that this telescope and eyepiece produce a good image, although the telescope’s focusing mechanism is stiff and seems to be somewhat gummed up.  The mount for the telescope is lost—my view through the telescope was of the lights in the parking garage adjacent to the Cathedral, a view obtained with the telescope lying on a table.  Nevertheless, it was very cool to think that Tomes and I might well have been the first people to have looked through Bouchet’s telescope in over a century, even if all we were looking at was just a parking garage light!

Bouchet himself must have been an interesting character.  Among other things he was both an inventor (he constructed and patented a mechanical adding machine, which is on display in the History Center) and a science fiction writer (he wrote a story about a trip to the Moon).

Bouchet’s adding machine.

Bouchet’s adding machine.

Bouchet’s combination of interests—technology, astronomy, science fiction—is a combination found in many astronomers today, be they amateurs or professionals.  Bouchet’s obituary noted, “Never was there a more singular, a more eccentric, a more contrarily gifted man who used his gifts and his winning personality so little to his own purposes….  He was at once both sage and child.”

I imagine Monsignor Bouchet would be most pleased to know that he is being remembered on account of his telescope—and that someone was looking through it well more than a century after his death.  There is a reasonable chance that this telescope is the oldest operational telescope in Kentucky, almost certainly the oldest that is “Kentucky-born,” and I imagine Bouchet would be very pleased by that as well.

Monsignor Michael Bouchet (1827-1903)

Monsignor Michael Bouchet (1827-1903)

Bouchet’s signature, on what appears to be the remnant of some instructions, affixed to the inside of the telescope’s case, regarding what is to be done with the telescope.

Bouchet’s signature, on what appears to be the remnant of some instructions, affixed to the inside of the telescope’s case, regarding what is to be done with the telescope.  Note that an “Academy” is mentioned.  A New York Times article of 1902 on A.C. Schuman mentions that Schuman built a telescope and a planetarium for “Nazareth Academy” (almost certainly the Nazareth Academy of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth near Bardstown, Kentucky).

Close-ups of the finder on Bouchet’s telescope.

Close-ups of the finder on Bouchet’s telescope.

Tim Tomolow of the Cathedral of the Assumption in Louisville, Kentucky.  Tomolow arranged for me to have an “up close” look at the telescope.  The telescope is normally on public display in the Flaget Library at the History Center, but it is mounted high on a wall, as seen below.

Tim Tomes of the Cathedral of the Assumption in Louisville, Kentucky.  Tomes arranged for me to have an “up close” look at the telescope.  The telescope is normally on public display in the Flaget Library at the History Center, but it is mounted high on a wall, as seen below.

Information about Bouchet comes from the History Center and from An American Holy Land: A History of the Archdiocese of Louisville by Clyde F. Crews (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1987).


The Venus Smiley Emoji

Images from the Japanese satellite Akatsuki show a spectacular arc-shaped cloud feature on Venus reminiscent of a giant (6000-mile long) sideways smiley face. Interestingly, this "smiley emoji" feature was stable for a full four days, so what was it?

Let us start by reviewing what we know about Venus’ atmosphere. The inner atmosphere extends for about 12 miles above the surface and is extremely thick. If you were to try to walk through it, assuming you had a sturdy astronaut suit capable of sustaining acid rain, then you would face an atmospheric density equivalent to about one-sixth that of water. On the surface the winds would be fair, clocking in at 2-3 miles per hour. The winds would then rise up to a hurricane levels of about 200 miles per hour or even faster at higher altitudes. The winds move so fast that they typically circumnavigate the planet once every 4 days (compared to the more sluggish rotation period of Venus of 243 days). All this sets the stage for some very interesting meteorology on Venus.

It turns out that the smiley face feature that was seen informs us of significant geological features on the Venetian surface which disturb the atmospheric patterns above it. The effect that caused the gigantic smiley face is called a “gravity wave.” Note this not to be mistaken for a “gravitational wave” which is a fundamental ringing of the fabric of spacetime.

The gravity wave is more mundane effect that takes place when the surface winds hit in this case the massive Venetian mountain range Aphrodite Terra just below the “emoji” feature. As a result the winds are driven straight upward until they strike the speedy horizontally-driven winds. The combination creates a relatively stable feature that is the gravity wave.

This discovery, written up in this week’s Science section of the New York Times, helps us to see indirectly the features on the surface of our “twin” planet.

FAW2017 – The Journey Continues

Picture of the many observatories atop Kitt Peak.

This week, I will have the privilege of joining scientists from the Vatican Observatory, friends of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, and 24 participants at the third Faith and Astronomy Workshop (FAW). Having greatly enjoyed the previous FAW events, both as a participant and a presenter, I greatly look forward to what this year's Workshop has in store.

Amid the excitement, there is also a sobering reality I take with me. Recently, the The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) has published a study, commissioned by St. Mary's Press, on why young people are leaving the Catholic Church. Though the results showed a complex tapestry of reasons why millennials are leaving in large numbers, one of the central findings was that young people see science and Catholicism as incompatible. (Click Here to read Our Sunday Visitors summary of the study.)

I would be quite naive to think that one workshop can change the cultural winds of the relationship between faith and science. Nevertheless, when I think of the experiences I have had listening to priests and lay people who are professional scientists speak about astronomy from their perspective as Christians, visiting active NASA sights, visiting professional Observatories that are on the cutting edge of modern research, and meeting clergy and lay participants from different countries talk about their love of faith and science, I can't help but wonder: What went wrong with the perception of the relationship between faith and science?

Many of you may be quite eager to jump in at this point, sharing numerous reasons why this relationship got off track like Galileo, the "God of the Gaps" problem stemming from Newton to Intelligent Design advocates, and curriculum trials in the United States over what "science" should be studied in school. Yes, there are many things that have contributed to our current struggles.

At the same time, we need to find a way, as people of faith, to reset the narrative, rid the discussion of its inflammatory tendency, dispense with the rhetoric and embrace the truth: The Catholic Church supports real science.

FAW brings people of faith into the world of professional science, inviting them to discover their own bridges between faith and science. The hope is that these bridges can then be used to help their students and parishioners better understand the relationship between faith and science. In light of the CARA study, this is a relationship that we desperately need to communicate to the People of God.

Please keep us in prayer this week that God may reveal those bridges to all the participants and presenters at FAW2017. And may we embrace and promote the true relationship between faith and science as a dialogue in the pursuit of truth.

Below are images from the past two FAW events. Also, click HERE to read a very nice article written by Dennis Sadowski about his visit to FAW last year. Enjoy!

One last story about Vera Rubin

A bit back, I ran a wonderful post by Chris Corbally about the late Vera Rubin. We passed it on to Fr. George Coyne, the emeritus director of the Vatican Observatory, who knew Dr. Rubin very well, as the following story he passed on to us shows… Chris has mentioned Vera’s “doggedness” in the pursuit of data in our search to understand the universe, a pursuit which led Vera to the detection of dark matter. I have experienced personally Vera’s “doggedness.” She was an examiner on my Ph.D. dissertation oral exam at the Georgetown College Observatory. Trying to relax I walked up to the Observatory a bit early and quietly wandered around. What did I find about 30 minutes before my exam but Vera and Father Martin McCarthy busily examining books in a row of the library I had never visited. What’s up? thought I! After they departed, I darted in to find that they were checking out the spectrum … Continue reading

Titan: Frozen Moon of Saturn

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 12 years since the Huygens probe touched down on the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan – the only moon in the solar system with a dense atmosphere and clouds. The probe returned images of rugged terrain as it descended, and revealed what appears to be drainage channels flowing down to a possible shoreline. The lander returned data for about 90 minutes after touchdown. Huygens is the most distant landing of any human-made craft. The Huygens lander was part of the Cassini mission to Saturn; the mission was so successful, it was extended in 2008, and again in 2010. The spacecraft has flown by numerous moons, and returned a treasure trove of scientific data; it has also returned some of the most spectacular imagery ever produced by a robotic probe. Cassini is now in its final months at Saturn, with the probe slated to burn up on Saturn’s atmosphere this September. From JPL Press Release 2017-006: 2005 Historic Descent … Continue reading

Across the Universe: A Piece of the Action

This column first ran in the Tablet in January, 2012… you may see a strong connection with a previous post! They come by post and email, every week… requests from strangers who want me to read over their startling new ideas in astronomy; gifts of self-published philosophical tracts and theorems that will overthrow Einstein; warnings of perils from outer space that angels or aliens have revealed to the letter writers. Every observatory gets these letters. I imagine the coaches of sports teams must get just as many letters from fans with the designs for secret new plays that will win the next match for their favorite team. However, being both an Observatory and a part of the Vatican, we get a double dose. Why are they writing to me? At first, that question was centered on the “me” part; I have no authority on any of the topics they are writing about. But I’ve come to realize that a more intriguing question … Continue reading

Meet your bloggers on YouTube!

  Did you know that the Vatican Observatory Foundation has its own YouTube channel? A number of the films there feature bloggers like Brenda Frye and Father Jim… and we’ve just posted three new videos there! Here’s Brenda talking about Dark Energy and Dark Matter, which we posted about a year ago:   Here’s three new short films: Fr. Jim on Fr. Georges Lemaître, St. Bonaventure, and Fr. Stanley Jaki:     … Continue reading

Dr. Dark Matter

We lost a luminary by the name of Professor Vera Rubin on December 25th, 2016. This gives us the motive to reflect on the many ways in which this person has enriched science as well as society. Dr. Rubin made the startling discovery that galaxies are put together such that the stars in the outskirts rotate with the same speeds as the stars closer to their centers. Translated, the implication is that there is a significant amount of matter that we cannot see in the outer parts of galaxies. The stars motion is changed by this unseen material, so we see its presence only by indirect methods. We call this mysterious material Dark Matter. This was one of the outstanding discoveries of the 20th century, one which many argue is sufficient to have merited a Nobel Prize in Physics. From all the information I have, she has handled her great scientific success with confidence and grace. This makes her a … Continue reading