And then I wrote… in 2014, the national Catholic newspaper Our Sunday Visitor invited me to submit a few words about science and faith… as anyone who reads these pages knows, it’s hard to shut me up on the topic! This covers familiar ground; but it does it in a way that I hope was very accessible to a popular audience… “What do I do, if science tells me one thing but religion tells me another thing? Which do I believe?” There’s a false assumption at the center of that question – because neither science nor religion are about in “believing” in “things”. Our religious belief is not in a “thing,” but in a Person – indeed, Three Persons. Our faith is in the Father, Son, and Spirit as described and identified in the Creed, and in the Church that leads us to those Persons. The words of the Creed are important precisely because they identify one very specific God: … 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.
Featuring Dr. Robert Janusz, and the latest news of the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope! Just for our paying members: on the next Full Moon (actually, the day after full Moon, this month), Sunday, February 28, we’ll be holding our regular on-line meetup where we get to know and chat with each other, and with astronomers from the Vatican Observatory. This month will feature Fr. Robert Janusz SJ. Those of you who saw our 2019 Specola Annual Report will be familiar with his work, which he does in collaboration with Fr. Rich Boyle; he’s an expert in the reduction of photometry data, the measurement of the brightnesses and colors of stars. In fact his experise is in what the Europeans call “informatics”; he deals with databases, scientific software, client-server applications, GUI etc. He programs basically in languages based on the object-oriented paradigm and SQL. But his PhD — on this topic — is actually in philosophy! In fact, he worked under … Continue reading →
And then I wrote… in 2013 I was invited to give a talk at the Jesuit parish in central London, and then the British online site Thinking Faith invited me to adapt it for one of their postings. They wanted a shorter version to fit their format; here is the original text, about twice as long, divided into two bits for this week and next. Here is Part 2, which starts with a riff that I wound up reusing a lot in later things I wrote… What I’ve come to see, especially given those philosophy courses that the Jesuits made me take as a part of my formation, is that belief itself plays a fundamental role in doing science. There are three religious beliefs that you have to accept on faith before you can be a scientist. You may not think of them as religious, but I can name religions that don’t have these beliefs. The first thing you must … Continue reading →
And then I wrote… in 2013 I was invited to give a talk at the Jesuit parish in central London, and then the British online site Thinking Faith invited me to adapt it for one of their postings. They wanted a shorter version to fit their format; here is the original text, about twice as long, divided into two bits for this week and next. I wound up reusing a lot of this stuff in later things I wrote… I once caused a stir in a church in Hawaii by announcing that I was “an observer from the Vatican.” But it’s true; I was in Hawaii to use the telescopes there, just as I also observe with the Vatican’s own telescope in Arizona. That’s my job with the Vatican Observatory. Why does the Vatican have an observatory? Its history actually goes back to the reform of the calendar in the 1580s, even before Galileo. People often think that after the … Continue reading →
Happy 80th birthday, Roger Angel! The story we tell is that our Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope mirror, the Pope’s scope, was made by an Angel in a synagogue. The synagogue was the old home of the Jewish community on the campus of the University of Arizona, which had become available when Hillel moved into new quarters. The mirror was the first to be made with the technique of melting glass in a spinning oven, allowing it to flow into a perfect parabola while flowing over a set of ceramic blocks to give it a thin but strong honeycomb structure underneath the reflective surface. And the angel, of course, was Roger Angel. The story I’ve heard is that back in the 1980s, Peter Strittmatter, then director of Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona, Roger Angel, and George Coyne, then director of the Vatican Observatory, used to go out to lunch all the time. (Remember going out to lunch?) So it … Continue reading →
And then I wrote… this article was submitted to a magazine called Retreat, published once a year for retreat houses in the UK. I wrote it in 2012, for its 2014 issue There’s more to Ignatian spirituality than “finding God in all things”; it also means finding God in those places where we find our passion. For me, to organize or lead a retreat means to bring people to where my passion is: the stars. I have been interested in astronomy all my life… just as I have been aware of God, all my life. Sputnik orbited the Earth the year I started school, people walked on the Moon during my last year of high school, so astronomy was literally “in the air” when I was growing up. And with an Italian father and Irish mother, my religion was also something I just grew up with. There really wasn’t any sense of one coming before the other. In fact, one of the hardest things for me to do is … Continue reading →
And then I wrote… This article was submitted to US Catholic in 2012, but didn’t appear there until the February 2014 issue. (Vol. 79, No. 2, pages 34-39). “The heavens proclaim the glory of God,” writes the psalmist. As an astronomer at the Vatican Observatory, I get to enjoy those proclamations on a daily basis. But you don’t have to be a professional astronomer to appreciate the beauty that our instruments have shown us. There are hundreds of websites online where startling astronomical images can be found. Perhaps the most accessible is the Astronomy Picture of the Day website and app, which, as its name implies, posts a different astronomy image every day, along with a short description to let you know what you are looking at. Lots of those images come from spacecraft, but just as many come from Earth-based observatories. Indeed, nowadays some of the best astronomical postcards come from the telescopes of advanced amateurs. The images can speak … Continue reading →
Back in November, we ran a “Giving Tuesday” campaign to support our prison outreach, where we send calendars to inmates in prison. A few days ago I asked our development coordinator, Fr. Justin Whittington, for a summary of how that went. He replied: So far we have sent out 244 calendars to inmates. 100 have been sent to chaplains at US prisons to be distributed. Thirty went to Fr. Gabriele Gionti for distribution at a Roman prison. So far 114 have been sent to individuals at 14 different institutions. Our 2020 Giving Tuesday campaign brought in $1150.00 through 17 donations. We have also received 44 Forever stamps (worth $24.20) as donations from inmates who were requesting Calendars. Since then, I know we have sent out more calendars. It’s an important part of our outreach; I know that Pope Francis was interested to hear about it. Your donations came to about $10 per calendar, which is a pretty good return. It … Continue reading →
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And then I wrote… this is the second half of the article I started last week, originally published in Italian in Civiltà Cattolica; this is the original English text. While much has developed since this article was written — see the links inserted here — I think the questions I raised then are still valid, and it’s also fun to see what we were thinking about Mars, almost ten years ago… The confluence of this “Mars life” rock [in 1996] and the popular Pathfinder mission [in 1997] gave both a scientific and political motivation to begin a systematic search for life on Mars. Unlike the previous Viking missions, however, this new program would proceed in a series of smaller steps. Viking’s major mistake had been that its design assumed too much about the sort of life it expected to find and the environment where it expected to find it. It was, in essence, a robot designed to find terrestrial life on Earth; it … Continue reading →
And then I wrote… On January 12, 2021, the NASA Mars rover Curiosity marked 3000 Martian days on the surface of Mars. In 2012 I was invited to write an article about the exploration of Mars; “Curiosity e l’esplorazione di Marte” appeared in the Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica on November 17,2012. Here is the original English version that I submitted to them. As it is more than 5000 words long, I will publish it over two weeks. One cannot make an observation of anything in nature without, in some way, altering the very object we are trying to observe. In quantum physics, we know that if we shine even the tiniest bit of light, a massless photon, onto a particle to determine its position or momentum, the impact of that photon will nudge the particle into a different position with a changed momentum. What we thought we were observing will have become changed by the very fact of us looking at … Continue reading →
And then I wrote… ten years ago there was an active blog site (which I can no longer find online) edited in Britain called “Book Foxes” where a number of writers wrote about books and the people who wrote books. Kirsty Jane Falconer, a British author who has gone on to become a successful freelancer living in Italy, decided to interview me about my book God’s Mechanics for the site. The interview was split into two parts; last week I ran Part I The idea of a religious university as they exist in the US is not a familiar one for those of us in the UK, although of course our university system has deep confessional roots. Could you tell us something about the idea – and the practice – of a Jesuit university? The Jesuits got into the education business pretty much by accident. They started out as a group of men who’d met at the University of Paris, who … Continue reading →