And then I wrote… part II of an article that dates from 2011 but I have no idea where it ever got published… The Physical and the Spiritual: Even after the adoption of a cosmology based on a spherical earth, a common feature of most cosmologies was the belief that the physical universe mirrored the spiritual realm. This often involved positing a “chain of creation” in which different levels or aspects of the physical universe were assigned to different elements, different gods, or different ranks of angels. Those different ranks were given names (thrones, dominions) and are what St. Paul was referring to in his letters, cited above. By the Middle Ages, it was assumed that the home of the saints and the biblical firmament were the outer spheres of the universe; below them were the spheres of each planet, moved by angels, and their perfect eternal circular motions stood in contrast to the irregular and finite movements of objects on … Continue reading →
About Br. Guy Consolmagno
Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ is Director of the the Vatican Observatory and President of the Vatican Observatory Foundation. A native of Detroit, Michigan, he earned undergraduate and masters' degrees from MIT, and a Ph. D. in Planetary Science from the University of Arizona; he was a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard and MIT, served in the US Peace Corps (Kenya), and taught university physics at Lafayette College before entering the Jesuits in 1989.
At the Vatican Observatory since 1993, his research explores connections between meteorites, asteroids, and the evolution of small solar system bodies, observing Kuiper Belt comets with the Vatican's 1.8 meter telescope in Arizona, and applying his measure of meteorite physical properties to understanding asteroid origins and structure. Along with more than 200 scientific publications, he is the author of a number of popular books including Turn Left at Orion (with Dan Davis), and most recently Would You Baptize an Extraterrestial? (with Father Paul Mueller, SJ). He also has hosted science programs for BBC Radio 4, been interviewed in numerous documentary films, appeared on The Colbert Report, and for more than ten years he has written a monthly science column for the British Catholic magazine, The Tablet.
Dr. Consolmagno's work has taken him to every continent on Earth; for example, in 1996 he spent six weeks collecting meteorites with a NASA team on the blue ice regions of East Antarctica. He has served on the governing boards of the Meteoritical Society; the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences (of which he was chair in 2006-2007); and IAU Commission 16 (Planets and Satellites). In 2000, the small bodies nomenclature committee of the IAU named an asteroid, 4597 Consolmagno, in recognition of his work. In 2014 he received the Carl Sagan Medal from the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences for excellence in public communication in planetary sciences.
Happy (American) Thanksgiving, everyone! Along with a great day of feasting, and recalling the things we should be thankful for, it’s also the traditional beginning of the Christmas season. So of course I would be remiss not to remind you that it’s a great time to order Calendars (CLICK HERE!) which we can send to your friends and family (I always wondered about that phrase, “friends and family”; but maybe I am lucky that my family also count as my friends). They get a great calendar, with the proceeds going to support our wrk here at the Vatican Observatory. Being thankful, and remembering friends and family, should also remind us of those who can’t be with family. For those who have been sent to prison, a calendar with the beauties to be seen overhead means a lot, when their night time views are limited to what they can see out a window. The quote in the photo caption came … Continue reading →
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And then I wrote… So, this is an odd article; not in that it’s unusual, itself — it is typical of the stuff I have written about faith and astronomy. In fact, it’s a nice summary of my ideas. What is odd is that, though I find three or four different versions of this in my files for “stuff I wrote in 2011” and I can see that it was edited (by someone named “Mike”) I have no record of where it was actually published. If anyone reading this can find it in print anywhere, that would be great! I don’t always remember to update my CV with non-science publications. Anyway, what I do see it that it originally was written in the fall of 2011… and the version I am publishing here is actually more or less my original draft, which I think is the freshest if not the most polished version. As with earlier articles that I have published here, this whole … Continue reading →
And then I wrote… as I mentioned the last two weeks, this article is adapted from a piece published in Italian in Civiltà Cattolica, which they ran in 2012. But I wrote it in English andI’m not sure the original English ever ran anywhere… because it runs to nearly 6,000 words, I have split it into three parts. The first two parst ran the last two weeks; here’s the finale, Part III, and I’ve decided not to hide it behind a firewall this time.. In order to do science, you must believe that science is worth doing. Which goes to the heart of the question: why do we do it? Do we study the stars to gain power or money or security by predicting the future, the way the astrologers try to do? To improve the timing of growing crops, the way the calendar-makers of the ancient world did? But our calendars don’t need constant revision; and our science has shown that astrology … Continue reading →
And then I wrote… as I mentioned last week, this article is adapted from a piece published in Italian in Civiltà Cattolica, which they ran in 2012. But I wrote it in English andI’m not sure the original English ever ran anywhere… because it runs to nearly 6,000 words, I have split it into three parts. The first part ran here last week; here’s Part II. In order to do science, you must accept the three virtues described in St. Paul: faith, hope, and love. And these are quite frankly religious in nature. Indeed, one can argue (as Stanley Jaki has done) that they are specifically Christian. Certainly, they are articles that not all religions necessarily believe. We start with faith. St. Anselm famously described theology as “faith seeking understanding.” But what is faith, really? And how does it relate to science? Well, if theology means faith is seeking understanding, then clearly faith is something that is not yet understood, at least … Continue reading →
And then I wrote… in 2011 I wrote a lengthy piece for the Jesuit journal Civiltà Cattolica, which they ran in 2012, in Italian, as “Studio delle stelle e virtù teologali. L’esperienza di un astronomo.” An abbreviated version ran in L’Osservatore Romano on July 28 of that year. But I don’t think it ever appeared in its full form in English. In fact I wrote it in English and they did the translations… because it runs to nearly 6,000 words, I have split it into three parts and we’ll run it here over the next three weeks. Here’s Part I. As a Jesuit brother at the Specola Vaticana, the astronomical observatory supported by the Vatican, I live in community with fellow Jesuits united by our common vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience… and by our work as astronomers. The world of astronomy is a microcosm that reflects how we human beings motivate ourselves to do things that bring no obvious benefit, in terms … Continue reading →
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And then I wrote… as I mentioned last week, back in 2011 I had started to write a column for the Tor.com site but after a few weeks the press of other matters caused me to abandon the project. I said before that I had had three columns, but actually there were only two that were finished and published. A shame that I didn’t have time to do more, since it’s a great site and I was proud to be a part of it. It’s because this article was originally written for an audience of Science Fiction Fans that I used the comparison of our meeting with the annual world gathering of SF Fandom, the Worldcon. This week’s entry is particularly appropriate now, since as it happens the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences (or “The DPS” as we call it) starts – online, of course, this year – on Monday. The column that follows … Continue reading →
First — congratulations to the OSIRIS REx Team for their successful “tag” of asteroid Bennu! As you may know, this asteroid mission is headquartered here in Tucson at the University of Arizona. Several members of the mission have worked closely with us; some have been scientific collaborations with Fr. Kikwaya and myself, they have given our Faith and Astronomy Workshop participants tours of the headquarters, and their spokesperson Dolores Hill was the keynote speaker at our annual seminar in February. The mission was the brainchild of the late Dr. Mike Drake, and I was Mike’s first graduate student, a (cough) few years back. After Mike’s sad death, Dr. Dante Lauretta took over the mission; his PhD director was my friend Bruce Fegley, whom I knew when we were undergraduates together at MIT. It’s a small world. But then, so’s Bennu. The other big news for us at the Specola here in Tucson this month — besides the fact that I … Continue reading →
And then I wrote… the year 2011 found me invited to contribute to a then-new feature of the website Tor.com, affiliated with the science fiction publisher Tor Books. (It helps to have friends in the field; editors at Tor, Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, have already gotten their picture in one of my posts, from the time they visited me in Castel Gandolfo.) As it happens, I only wound up writing three posts for them before the press of other items got in the way. If you dig really hard you might still be able to find the posts there, but what the heck, here’s the first of them. In fact… this one was actually written by sometime Sacred Space author Bill Higgins, who let me tag on a few words and add my name to the author list. To be honest, I have no idea what, if anything, I contributed. [And I swiped the opening joke from our friend … Continue reading →
And then I wrote… in 2011, the planet Neptune had completed one full orbit around the Sun from the time when it was first discovered, and a small magazine called Argentus, edited by a friend of mine, Steve Silver, invited a number of astronomers to submit articles in its honor. You can see the resulting special issue here, on line. My contribution was to conduct an interview with Dr. Heidi Hammel, who is one of the world’s leading experts on the outer planets… and someone I have known since we were at MIT together, a… few… years ago. Here’s the interview: Planet Neptune was discovered on September 23, 1846, by the Berlin Observatory astronomers Johann Galle and Heinrich D’Arrest. They had famously been informed by the French astronomer Urbain Le Verrier that calculations of the perturbations in the orbit of Uranus suggested a planet could be found in a particular spot of the sky; when Galle and D’Arrest pointed their … Continue reading →