Galileo’s Rivals
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Our very own Chris Graney has a new book! It’s called Mathematical Disquisitions: The Booklet of Theses Immortalized by Galileo published by the University of Notre Dame Press. Plenty of people have translated the works of Galileo, and many more have read them – in Italy, they’re considered an essential part of Italian literature and kids read them when they are in high school. But how many people have actually read the works of Galileo’s rivals, especially those whom he specifically calls out in his writings? Chris Graney has… and here he translates and comments on one of the most interesting of these, by Locker. To quote the blurb on the Notre Dame Press site: Mathematical Disquisitions: The Booklet of Theses Immortalized by Galileo offers a new English translation of the 1614 Disquisitiones Mathematicae, which Johann Georg Locher wrote under the guidance of the German Jesuit astronomer Christoph Scheiner. The booklet, an anti-Copernican astronomical work, is of interest in large part because Galileo … Continue reading

Calendars!
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Happy September the first… and happy Calendar Day! Yes, the official Vatican Observatory Foundation calendar is now available for sale: These calendars have been a tradition for more than ten years. Every month has an excellent astrophotograph, donated to us for our use, by some of the best amateur astrophotographers in the world. The 2018 calendar features work by Damian Peach from the UK (who did the cover photo above), Bernard Hubl from Austria, J-P Metsavainio from Finland, Adam Block from the University of Arizona… and more. Twelve… no, make that, fourteen fantastic images. (Counting the cover, and January 2019.) The calendar itself contains a delightfully eclectic selection of astronomically significant dates. And probably one or two typos, even though Dr. Brendan Thomson (who puts this together for us every year) and I must have proofread it at least three times each. Tell us of a typo and I will send you a cookie. The calendar is meant to be … Continue reading

Diary: Where does the money go? (Part 2)
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In a previous post, I noted that the Vatican Observatory Foundation (which sponsors this blog) has to raise about $800,000 a year to cover its commitments, and at the moment we are running very much behind. On the order of $300,000 a year behind, to be exact. That’s… distressing. What do we plan to do about it? Lots of things, but one in particular concerns you, the readers of this blog. The Catholic Astronomer has been around for about three years, and every year our readership is doubled and our support has likewise increased. Let’s just give an overview of where we are as of the end of July, 2017: We have 584 people who subscribe to our free email notification whenever there is a new posting. In addition, we publicize these on the Foundations’s Facebook site (just under 3,900 followers), and on our Vatican Observatory twitter site (6,600 followers) and the Foundation twitter site (1,400 followers). We get on … Continue reading

Diary: Where does the money go? (Part I)
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In a recent post, I put out a short beg for folks to actually subscribe at $10 a month (more if you want!) and keep this blog, and the Foundation, going. This has brought up, quite rightly, a question about where exactly this money goes. The first item, of course, is to pay for the cost of this blog itself. At the moment, that’s covered. But the bigger goal is to have surplus from this funding go to support the Vatican Observatory Foundation and its works. What is it that the Foundation does? If you want to know what the Vatican Observatory Foundation has been up to lately, click here for a pdf of our most recent newsletter. What about the details of our funding? Where does it come from, where does it go? That’s covered in our annual report, (click here). The numbers in the annual report are the accountant’s numbers, which is different from actual cash flow. For one … Continue reading

Proclaiming the Heavens
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Since February, our daily readership here at the Catholic Astronomer site has doubled. That’s the good news. However, the number of folks who are subscribers or member/supporters hasn’t doubled. A lot of people read this site via the Vatican Observatory Foundation Facebook page, which is great. But you may not realize that we depend on paying supporters of the blog to keep this site operating. We pay each of our bloggers – not much, but enough to maintain the principle that writers deserve an income, the laborer is worthy of a wage. (1 Timothy 5:18, for those Catholics in the audience who don’t know their scripture!) And there are other technical support costs. Only your donations can keep this operation moving. Of course, what I am hoping is that any donations above our costs (which, thankfully, we do have) can grow to become a major support for the work of the Vatican Observatory Foundation. It takes a lot of money … Continue reading

An interfaith fellowship on religion and science
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It comes in the mail… This might be very interesting to the readers of our blog… with Rabbi Geoff Mitelman’s permission, I am posting here his email to me: I’m writing to you because my organization, Sinai and Synapses, bridges the worlds of religion and science, and aims to elevate the public discourse in general. We have just opened applications for an interfaith Fellowship on religion and science, where we will bring together a select group of academics, clergy and writers for learning, networking and content creation in New York six times over two years. Through a generous grant, we will also be able to cover travel for all the meetings, (within North America). We want to make sure we have a diverse collection of Fellows, so I wondered if you might know people who would be good candidates to apply, or even if you could share it in your networks. Obviously, we can’t promise anything, since we don’t know how many … Continue reading

Faith and Science: One Stop Shopping!
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We’re pleased to announce the latest outreach project of the Vatican Observatory Foundation: A Faith and Science resource site (click here!) The idea is to have a place where Catholic educators – and educated Catholics – can go to find links to materials all over the web dealing with a variety of topics on the broad issue of Faith and Science. This web site is not complete, of course, and probably never will be… new material is being posted (and being brought to our attention) all the time. In fact, when you go to the site you’ll notice a certain bias towards material that our own members of the Vatican Observatory, past and present, have prepared and posted on-line. Rather than describing it further, I encourage you to go explore the site itself. And if you have comments or suggestions, please let us know. However, there’s one point I do want to make here. Sites like these don’t happen for … Continue reading

Should you (or someone you love) go to MIT?
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Today is “PI” day (written in American style, 3/14…) and MIT is holding a one day fundraiser… In honor of this day, this provides me with an excuse to post something I wrote for my Live Journal account a few years ago and which I get asked about from parents (and grandparents) of prospective students all the time. Of course the MIT I attended was nearly half a century back, but things haven’t changed all that much… Do I recommend MIT? Only if you are a very particular type of student. There is a reason why schools like MIT are so rare: because for most people, it is the wrong school to go to. MIT is not a place to find yourself. Because it is such an intense environment, it can be devastating to anyone who doesn’t already have a strong sense of who they are, and where they want to go. (Mind you, after MIT is finished with you, the person … Continue reading

Another blog about the blog
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I just finished up giving a three-day astronomy-themed retreat (well, Friday night to Sunday noon) at the Jesuit Retreat Center in Los Altos, California. We had about 70 people show up, all of them impressive and enthusiastic and fascinating to meet. I wish I could have spent five hours with each of them. And someone in the group was kind enough to advertise The Catholic Astronomer, so I hope some of you from that retreat have found yourself here. But that also reminded me that I do need to do some occasional advertising. At the moment, the number of people who are signed up to get free emails when a new article is posted is just under 500; it should be at 5000, I would think. Tell your friends and neighbors about this site! (And your classes.) And don’t forget to sign up yourself. And if you have the wherewithal, joining Sacred Space would let us keep funding this site … Continue reading

Five Reasons Why Clickbait Works
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There’s two opposing theories about posting stuff in the week between Christmas and New Years. On the one hand, everyone’s off having a good time and not paying attention to the internet. On the other hand, nobody else is posting anything so you have a better chance than usual of actually being noticed by the folks who do. It’s been a while since I have posted a diary on The Catholic Astronomer about this blog itself, so I am taking these off-days to do so. Since the self-referential title promised five points (I just made up the number five now, I have no idea how many points I’ll have) let me start numbering them. Even though we don’t charge you for reading it, this web site is not free. I pay (a pittance, admittedly) to our bloggers, and that money has to come from someplace. In addition we pay a standing fee to Cyrcle Systems for regular maintenance, etc. Some months … Continue reading

5 Amazing Astronomical Things about Choosing a New Jesuit General!
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This week, more than 200 Jesuits from around the world are gathering in Rome to elect a new Father General; you can read all about it here. But for readers of The Catholic Astronomer, I thought I would pass on five amazing things that you might not know… For the first time ever, the electors will consist not only of priests from each Jesuit province around the world but also six brothers, chosen from each continent. The representative brother from North America is, in fact… me. So, there will be at least one astronomer at the meeting. All the more reason to pray for all of us! (No fear I will get elected the new Father General — the leader has to be a priest, not a brother. (What’s the difference? Priests are ordained, brothers are not. I do not lead public prayer, say Mass, or do any of those other priestly functions. I am a layperson, who belongs to a religious … Continue reading

Star-mapping Sisters
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The topic came up a few months back on our Twitter account. Someone had mentioned the famous photo of the Sisters of the Child Mary at the measuring machine, taking careful measure of the position of each star on a photographic plate from the Vatican Observatory’s Carte du Ciel telescope. Someone else asked, “Do we know who those sisters were?” I resolved to find out as soon as I got back to Rome. And, unlike many of my resolutions, I actually did it. Then someone said it would make a good Catholic Astronomer posting. Which it would. But, just back from the US, I have been flooded with paperwork and details to get ready for our biennial summer school; so I begged off. Instead, Carol Glatz of the Catholic News Service (the folks who prepare press reports from Rome for the US Catholic Bishops) asked if she could step in. She’s just published a wonderful and detailed story about them, … Continue reading