Christopher M. Graney

About Christopher M. Graney

Christopher M. Graney is professor of physics and astronomy at Jefferson Community & Technical College in Louisville, Kentucky (USA), where he helps keep the college’s observatory running. For some years now his research focus has been the history of astronomy, especially the late 16th and early 17th centuries. He is the author of the 2015 book Setting Aside All Authority: Giovanni Battista Riccioli and the Science Against Copernicus in the Age of Galileo, and the forthcoming book Mathematical Disquisitions: The Booklet of Theses Immortalized by Galileo, both published by the University of Notre Dame Press.

How Frs. Riccioli and Dechales Argued that Science Shows the Earth to be at Rest – The Coriolis Effect
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The Coriolis Effect is an apparent deflection of projectiles and falling bodies that is caused by the rotation of the Earth.  It is named for Gaspard-Gustave de Coriolis, a French scientist who described it mathematically in the early 19th century.  It is responsible for the rotation of weather patterns such as hurricanes.  But it turns out that a century and a half before Coriolis did his work, other scientists were discussing the Coriolis Effect.  These scientists were Jesuits—Fr. Giovanni Battista Riccioli, who discussed the effect in his 1651 book Almagestum Novum, and Fr. Claude François Milliet Dechales, who discussed the effect and included some nice simple diagrams of it in his 1674 book Cursus seu Mundus Mathematicae. What is interesting about this is that Riccioli and Dechales were discussing an effect that they did not believe to exist.  Their whole point was that, were Earth rotating like Copernicus says, that rotation would produce observable effects—deflection of projectiles and falling bodies.  … Continue reading

The Sun’s Many Strange Neighbors
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The table at right* shows the distance to and luminosity of the twenty stars closest to our solar system. Distance is measured in light years (meaning that if a star is 10 light years from Earth, then it would require 10 years to reach that star, travelling at the speed of light). Luminosity, or power output, is given in terms of the Sun’s output (so a star with the same power output as our Sun would have a luminosity of 1). The stars in this table are the solar system’s twenty nearest neighbors. Notice what a wimpy lot our neighbors are. Yes, there are some respectable stars among the bunch—obviously Sirius A, with 22 times (22x) the Sun’s power output, is a serious*~ star. Sirius is the “Dog Star” in the constellation Canis Major, and the brightest star in the night sky. It appears bright to us both because it is very close and because it is quite powerful. Procyon, … Continue reading

Nibiru, Kepler, and some basics on orbits
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Let’s take another look at Johannes Kepler and at Nibiru, the supposed planet that supposedly will wreak havoc on Earth in October.  This is my second Nibiru post on this blog, the first being a couple of months ago.  As I mentioned then, some people find this Nibiru business to be a lark, or just an example of the worst sort of internet misinformation.  Others take it seriously—or don’t know how they are supposed to be able to know what to believe.  But here at The Catholic Astronomer, Nibiru is a great opportunity to talk about how the solar system works, and about Johannes Kepler, the first astronomer to really figure out how the solar system works. The Washington Post asked “Will the mysterious shadow planet Nibiru obliterate Earth in October?”  They answered “No”, but no one need take their word for it, or anyone else’s.  A person can reason this out for himself or herself, with a little help … Continue reading

Strange Tales of Galileo and Proving: Telescopic Evidence for Earth’s Immobility through Double Stars
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This is the fourth in a series of posts on the subject of Galileo and proving the Earth’s motion.  This is the year 2017, and 2017 marks the 400th anniversary of the first observation of a double star, made in 1617 by none other than Galileo and his friend the Benedictine Fr. Benedetto Castelli.  Up until our current century, the first observation of a double star had been attributed to the Jesuit Fr. Giovanni Battista Riccioli, but in 2004 Sky & Telescope magazine published an article by Leos Ondra on how Galileo and Castelli were the first to do it (“A New View of Mizar,” July 2004).  Ondra discovered this by going through Galileo’s observing notes.  An extended version of the Sky & Telescope article is available on Ondra’s web page. The double star that Castelli and Galileo observed was Mizar, the star in the bend of the handle of the Big Dipper.  Seen with the naked eye, it appears … Continue reading

Astronomers find Conclusive Evidence for Intelligent Life on Another Planet!
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Have you ever wondered what would happen if major media outlets reported that astronomers had finally found hard scientific evidence that intelligent life exists on another planet? What would be the effect on society? On religion? How would people react? Would we be alarmed, and riot in the streets? Would we all come together and finally have world peace? Would it be the biggest event in human history? Well, wonder no more—it has happened! Surely you have seen the news reported in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other media outlets? You haven’t? Well, it’s not because they didn’t report it! Indeed, the Wall Street Journal stated on the front page that— The most extraordinary development [of the year] has been the proof afforded by the astronomical observations of the year that conscious, intelligent life exists upon the planet Mars. This is from the Wall Street Journal “Review and Outlook—Mars”, December 28, 1907 (Morning Edition), front page. … Continue reading

REPLIES and e-mails and funds for astronomical research
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You are sending me e-mail.  Well, maybe not you personally, but y’all (as we say in Kentucky) who read The Catholic Astronomer are sending me e-mail.  These e-mails consist largely of questions and responses to my various blog posts. I probably should have realized back when I started writing for The Catholic Astronomer that I would have to eventually limit my blog-related e-mail.  “Eventually” has arrived.  I like the e-mails, but answering them is becoming a bit of a time sink. Fortunately, The Catholic Astronomer has a system for answering reader questions and acknowledging reader responses: the LEAVE A REPLY option on every post.  Leave your REPLY.  Ask your question in it.  We will try to answer.  Indeed, the Boss of this operation, Br. Guy Consolmagno, Director of the Vatican Observatory, has asked us bloggers to make a point of answering replies if we can. It is true that to REPLY you have to be logged in with the blog.  … Continue reading

Revealed Through Reason: The Phases of the Jovian Moons
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In 1614 Johann Georg Locher, a student of the Jesuit astronomer Fr. Christoph Scheiner, published a short book called Disquisitiones mathematicae, de controversiis et novitatibus astronomicis—that is, Mathematical Disquisitions, Concerning Astronomical Controversies and Novelties. Among other things, the book discussed the phases of Venus and the satellites of Jupiter, all recently discovered by Galileo using a telescope. Toward the end of the book, Locher engaged in an interesting exercise in astronomical reasoning. He presented to his readers the figure below. And, regarding this figure, he wrote— Vnam hactenus Lunam agnouimus circa terram, quam oculus A in terra positus libere conspexit, modo silentem in B; modo dimidiam in C; alias plenam in D; alias curtatam in E…. At vero, post repertum Oculum Astronomicum, tubum inquam Opticum, plures sese aperuerunt nobis Lunae.   Quarum praecipua videtur esse Venus; ea enim in tubum GH ex I delapsa, oculo A occurrit falcata, dum puncto M Augis opposito vicina agit: & vero in K Auge … Continue reading

Astronomy in Art & Architecture: Newark, New Jersey USA
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I always keep an eye out for instances of math and science (and astronomy in particular) appearing in public art and architecture, because that stuff seems like great subject matter for this blog.  Readers may recall previous “Astronomy in Art & Architecture” posts for Milwaukee (Wisconsin), Minneapolis (Minnesota), and Covington (Kentucky).  Generally speaking, instances of public math and science (meaning something more than generic stars on the ceiling of a building) have turned out to be rarer than I would have expected before I started looking for them. But this past March I found an instance of public math and science in a place I hardly expected—the airport in Newark, New Jersey.  There, amid the fluorescent-light-illuminated steel gray and beige surroundings of the airport, were large, colorful paintings featuring air-and-space themes.  These were a most welcome sight!  They also included some material that was pure astronomy, and even some that was history of astronomy. Two of these wall paintings are … Continue reading

A V.O. Conference on Black Holes, Gravitational Waves, and Spacetime Singularities
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Do you recall the post from a while back that focused on the research being done by Vatican Observatory scientists? This is another “Science at the V.O.” post. From the evening of Monday May 8 through the morning of Friday May 12 the V.O. hosted a conference entitled “Black Holes, Gravitational Waves, and Spacetime Singularities”. The conference was organized by Dr. Gabriele Gionti, S. J. When I was visiting the V.O. in March I had the pleasure of meeting, talking with, and even hanging out at an Albano Laziale coffee shop expounding upon Kentucky community college life to, Fr. Gionti. Gionti is a native of Italy who earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in physics in the 1990’s, joined the Jesuits in 2000, was assigned to the V.O. in 2004, and ordained a priest in 2010. Since joining the Jesuits he has picked up several more degrees, in philosophy and theology. Gionti is a very educated man, but if you … Continue reading

The Earth-Destroying Planet Nibiru! (and Johannes Kepler)
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I wanted to become a theologian; for a long time I was restless:  Now, however, observe how through my effort God is being celebrated through astronomy. —Johannes Kepler in a letter to his former teacher. Will the mysterious shadow planet Nibiru obliterate Earth in October? —from a Washington Post “Morning Mix” headline, January 5, 2017. The question was answered with “No”. You might not think that Johannes Kepler, one of the most influential astronomers in history, and “Nibiru”, the supposed Earth-destroying planet, would share any point of connection.  But they do. Nibiru is a supposed planet that purportedly passes through the solar system periodically, wreaking havoc of one sort or another.  There are various versions of the Nibiru idea.  If you Google Nibiru (something I do not recommend, unless you have a great tolerance for the worst in internet misinformation) you will find there are many Nibiru enthusiasts, but they are not all in agreement on what is supposed to happen.  … Continue reading

Johannes Kepler’s Harmony of the World
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Readers of this blog may recall a post from some time ago about the William Marshall Bullitt Collection in the Archives and Special Collections (ASC) of the Ekstrom Library of the University of Louisville here in Kentucky.  I had the enjoyable task of studying the books in the collection and writing discussions of them for the ASC—discussions specifically intended for a diverse audience that might include scholars, students at varying levels, and interested members of the general public.  One of the books in the collection that will interest readers of this blog (and that they can go to see and study at the University of Louisville) is Johannes Kepler’s 1619 Harmonices Mundi or Harmony* of the World.  This post is an adaptation (with permission) of the discussion I wrote for the ASC. Readers who peruse Harmony will discover it to be partly a work of science, partly a prayer, and partly an exhibition of unconstrained creativity.  To Kepler, the universe … Continue reading

Strange Tales of Galileo and Proving: Splitting the Stars
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This is the third in a series of posts on the subject of Galileo and proving the Earth’s motion.  The first post was on how even books for children and travel books state (incorrectly) that Galileo proved that the Earth circles the sun like Copernicus said, and how those books probably make that statement because occasionally even reputable sources do.  The second post was on some strange things about Galileo’s efforts to argue that the tides of the sea were evidence for the Earth’s motion, and how he left out some data when he made his tides argument in his 1632 Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems—Ptolemaic and Copernican. I noted in the second post that in Galileo’s time, telescopic observations were unlikely to prove Earth’s motion.  This was because, prior to the invention of the telescope, Tycho Brahe had proposed a geocentric theory in which the planets circled the sun, while the sun, moon, and stars all circled … Continue reading