Recall, the days of the week in 2009 match those of 2020 (after this year's leap day) and the liturgical calendar also matches; thus, both in 2009 and 2020, the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time falls on 12 July. Here's what I wrote for the second reflection… it’s a new retelling of a tale familiar to most of our readers.
Since most of the text material is familiar, I am appending at the end a number of historical images from our archives that you may not have seen before...
This was the Vatican in 1924. Look carefully at the wall behind the Vatican and you will see two telescope domes! That’s where the Vatican Observatory was situated until it moved to Castel Gandolfo in the 1930s...
Studying creation is a time-honored way of coming closer to God. In the opening chapter of his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul points out that, since the beginning of time, God has revealed Himself in the things that He created. Thus it is not surprising that the Church should support science.
In 1891, Pope Leo XIII founded an astronomical research center at the Vatican. Telescopes were built on the walls surrounding the gardens behind St. Peter’s, and instruments were installed in the Tower of the Winds atop the Vatican Library. Pope Leo’s reasons were straightforward: “This plan is simply that everyone might see clearly that the Church and her Pastors are not opposed to true and solid science, whether human or divine, but that they embrace it, encourage it, and promote it with the fullest possible dedication.”
This wasn’t a new idea in the Church. In the 1500s, the Council of Trent…
This year the Ligo Interferomenter Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) Scientific Collaboration announced the discovery of a potentially new type of object that fell into a black hole, of course never to be seen or heard from again! Black holes are always interesting, but in this case it is not the black hole that is in the spotlight. Instead, it is that ill-fated infalling object that grabbed all the attention. This is because information was obtained that points to the discovery of the heaviest known neutron star. Neutron stars should not be confused with ordinary stars we see in the sky. Stars are made of hydrogen and tend to shine in colors which our eyes can see. On the other hand, neutron stars are formed from the centers of massive stars. They are made of neutrons, and are very dark against the night sky. These dim neutron stars are also densely-packed: so much so that a single teaspoon would weigh as much …Continue reading →
Today’s featured entry from the Vatican Observatory Faith and Science pages: “Science in the Service of Peace – St. John Paul II” (click here for it) This entry is an address by Pope John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, November 12, 1983. There are many resources available from the Pontifical Academy of Sciences…. [click here to continue]. Today marks one year of these regular mini-posts that simply highlight entries from the Vatican Observatory Faith and Science pages. These mini-posts appear twice each month, once on the 8th of the month, and once on the 25th of the month. Why the 8th and the 25th? Because the 1st and the 15th would be too boring, too normal, and not astronomical enough. Therefore, the mini-posts appear on the 8th, because there are eight major planets orbiting the sun, and on the 25th, because twenty-five hours is the approximate amount of time between one moonrise and the next! The Faith …Continue reading →
The Moon appears with Saturn and Jupiter in the southeastern sky at midnight on July 8th. The Moon appears near mars in east-southeastern sky during the early morning hours on July 11th & 12th. Venus appears in conjunction with the star Aldebaran in the eastern predawn all week. The Moon is a waning gibbous – rising after sunset, visible high in the sky after midnight, and visible to the southwest after sunrise. The third quarter Moon occurs on July 12th – rising around midnight, and visible to the south after sunrise. After July 12th, the Moon will be a waning crescent – visible low to the east before sunrise. Moon News Full Moon from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Jeff Williams pic.twitter.com/ltk0Lr8bBK — Antonio Paris (@AntonioParis) July 4, 2020 The Sun is currently spotless, but SpaceWeather.com reports that a sunspot appears to be emerging on the northern hemisphere, near the center of the Sun’s face. Coronal holes appear at …Continue reading →
Since its founding in 1891, many people have passed through the doors of the Vatican Observatory. A quick perusal of our guestbook reveals several Names, including Popes, nobel laureates, astronauts, actors, and saints. Today’s guestbook entry is from July 15, 1914, when Caroline Furness made a visit. Next to her name, Caroline Ellen Furness (1869-1936) wrote, “Vassar College Observatory, N.Y.” She was an astronomer who directed the Vassar observatory. She was the first woman to receive a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1896. She studied there under Harold Jacoby. At Vassar, she taught the first course on variable stars offered in any American university. She literally wrote the book on the subject, with her 1915 tome, Introduction to the Study of Variable Stars. In 1910, she became acting director of the Vassar observatory while the previous director, Mary Whitney, was on medical leave. After Whitney’s retirement in 1915, Furness formally took the director’s title. She would hold the post until …Continue reading →
The brightest star* in the sky, Sirius, the Dog Star, was the subject of a nice, short article in the March 2020 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine. The article noted that Sirius is a double star: the Sirius that we point to in the night sky (what astronomers call “Sirius A”) is orbited by a faint companion star (“Sirius B”). Sirius B is most difficult to see through a telescope, owing to the brightness of Sirius A—but it can be spotted, and even photographed. The motion of Sirius B around Sirius A can also be spotted. Observe Sirius with a good telescope over a period of 50 years and you will see Sirius B complete one orbit. The video below shows a little more than two complete orbits of Sirius B about Sirius A, from approximately 2020 to approximately 2154. This video is a simulation made with the app Celestia. It shows what you would see if you had …Continue reading →
Our planet being hit by an asteroid is a worrying thought and not much fun. However, this week I was reminded of the night I brought about 30 asteroids to Dunsink Observatory in Dublin. A family audience packed the meridian room for my workshop Balloon Planets. Which partly involved learning about the asteroids between Mars and Jupiter. Asteroid Day On June 30th this week we had Asteroid day. This is an annual reminder of the threat that asteroids hold for our home in space. We know that organisations are working on methods to deflect asteroids heading in our direction. We know that there are organisations on constant watch for these objects. The treat is real, the possibilities of a hit are real. Hopefully, more resources will be put into research and defence activities to avert the nightmare scenario of a direct hit. Dunsink Observatory I’ve spent almost 14 years or so doing talks and workshops for various groups at …Continue reading →
And then I wrote… The year 2009 was the International Year of Astronomy: 400 years since Galileo first gazed at the sky through a telescope, and 40 years since humans first set foot on the Moon. In its honor, the Redemptorist Press invited me to write a series of reflections on issues of religion and science for the Sunday bulletins that are distributed in churches throughout the United Kingdom. As it happens, the days of the week in 2009 match those of 2020 (after this year’s leap day) and the liturgical calendar also matches; thus, both in 2009 and 2020, the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time falls on 5 July. Here’s what I wrote for the first reflection: We all learned in school that the world is round. But, day to day, each of us lives in a much narrower universe. We look to the horizon and see only a flat expanse, a few buildings or trees, with ourselves at …Continue reading →
June 30th is International Asteroid Day, a UN recognized day of awareness and education about asteroids – their role in the formation of our solar system, how we can use their resources, how asteroids can pave the way for future exploration, and how we can protect the Earth from asteroid impacts; I have been a supporter of #AsteroidDay since day 1. June 30th is the anniversary of the 1908 Tunguska impact event – which leveled 830 square miles of forest in a remote region of Russia. It's 30th June also #AsteroidDay On this day in 1908 the Tunguska Event occurred. An enormous meteoric explosion over Siberia. Possibly caused by an asteroid airburst. Pictures Leonid Kulik. pic.twitter.com/NnlTbIPTpt — David Blanchflower (@DavidBflower) June 30, 2020 I’m a complete asteroid fanatic, and I’ve been lecturing about asteroids since before #AsteroidDay came into existence; during #AsteroidDay events at the Cranbrook Institute of Science, I’ve given live-demos of an asteroid rendezvous, capture and redirect missions …Continue reading →
Two weeks ago, a small group of my friends decided to explore the writings of the famous naturalist John Muir. Though born in Scotland and known most for his writings about conserving the Yosemite, his family immigrated to Wisconsin, giving us Wisconsinites a good enough reason to explore Muir’s thought. Raised in a stern (abusive by today’s standards), Calvinist farm family, it’s clear that Muir lived in tension between strict discipline, hard work, and a longing for the natural world. Though Muir’s zeal for the redwoods in the everglades is common knowledge, his memoir reveals that every aspect of creation fascinated him. For obvious reasons, I found great joy reading Muir’s recollection of Wisconsin’s starry nights and northern lights. The winter stars far surpassed those of our stormy Scotland in brightness, and we gazed and gazed as though we had never seen stars before. Oftentimes the heavens were made still more glorious by auroras, the long lance rays, called “Merry …Continue reading →
Since its founding in 1891, many people have passed through the doors of the Vatican Observatory. A quick perusal of our guestbook reveals several Names, including Popes, nobel laureates, astronauts, actors, and saints. Today’s guestbook entry is from July 4, 1914, when William Campbell made a visit. Next to his name, William Wallace Campbell (1862-1938) wrote, “Lick Observatory, Calif.” He was director of the Lick Observatory from 1901 to 1930. Why did he pass through the doors of the Vatican Observatory in the summer of 1914? He was on his way to Russia, where he and a collaborator from the Berlin Observatory planned to photograph an eclipse to test Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Alas, politics intervened. World War I broke out, with Germany and Russia on opposite sides. Campbell’s collaborator Erwin Freundlich was detained and his equipment confiscated. Campbell (an American) was permitted to continue his work, but with makeshift equipment. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate and …Continue reading →