(And Then I Wrote…) I’m not sure how I first met the late Ruth Rees… who died on 3 June, 2019, at the age of 91. She was an odd bird in many ways, a little old lady who lived alone in an apartment around the corner from the Baker Street underground station – near where Mr. Sherlock Holmes used to live, of course – and in many ways she was a relic from an age almost as old as Mr. Holmes. It may be that our original connection was through science fiction; she had a cousin who ran a Blake’s 7 fan club, BBC science fiction show from the 1960s that I otherwise know nothing about, and I had met the cousin at various British SF conventions. Be that as it may, Ruth and I did connect and I always did enjoy visiting with her. More than ten years ago she wrote a little book about the Rosary, as … 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.
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And then I wrote… this address was at the main science and engineering campus of the the University of Missouri system, Truman State University. I had a wonderful time there, starting with the plane ride from St. Louis in a ten-seater prop plane… To the president, the provost, the dean, I thank you; honored guests, I greet you; to the Truman State University Class of 2015, I congratulate you. I am honored to share this stage with you. Thinking about the class of 2015, I did some calculations… it’s the nerd in me, I know… and I realized that most of you were probably born in the early 1990s, which means you would have been around Harry Potter’s age when those movies came out. You are the generation who grew up alongside Harry Potter. That’s pretty wonderful. No other generation will be able to say that. And I mention that, because there’s connection between you and Harry Potter. Like Harry … Continue reading →
I had meant to put up posts about two important events but yesterday I was trapped in a Zoom meeting all day so these are now a bit late; still, better late than never. The first is that this week is the fifth anniversary of the landmark encyclical on our relationship with nature, Laudato Si’, and as a part of its commemoration there are a number of events planned (alas, some already past) for Laudato Si’ Week – click on the link to follow up on them. Of course the message of this encyclical has been covered many times in the Sacred Space Astronomy site, and the document itself can be found (along with other relevant articles) on our Faith and Astronomy Resource site. This is in fact the inauguration of a Laudato Si’ year… The other event this week was the passing of the retired Father General of the Jesuits, Fr. Adolfo Nicolàs. Though he was originally from Spain, … Continue reading →
And then I wrote… just a few months after my Georgetown gig, in December of 2014 I was invited to speak at the winter commencement of the school of arts and sciences at the University of Arizona. For reasons that will be made clear, they did not offer me an honorary degree… To Dean Ruis, Dean Cheu, thank you; honored guests, I greet you; to the University of Arizona College of Science Class of Winter 2014, I congratulate you. I am honored to share this stage with you. I am a planetary scientist and a Jesuit brother. I wear a lot of hats… or collars, as the case may be. One of those hats — this hood — I share with you. I am also a graduate of the University of Arizona, getting my PhD in Planetary Sciences here in 1978. This is an exciting time to be a planetary scientist. Just this month [remember, this was 2014], the New … Continue reading →
Today would have been the 100th birthday of Pope (and now Saint) John Paul II. Pope Francis has already celebrated (click here) and of course this event will be especially noted in Poland. As part of that celebration, a Catholic newspaper in Poland, Wszystko Co Najważniejsze, asked me to write a short reflection on what Pope John Paul II meant for the Vatican Observatory. Since they are publishing it in Polish, I thought I would run my original English version here. (Anyone who reads Polish can comment in the comments about how well their translation came across! Actually, we do have two Polish speakers at the Specola… and the Polish website has their edited version of my English text.) The papacy of Saint John Paul II came at a watershed moment in the history of the Vatican Observatory. A new observatory director, Fr. George Coyne SJ, had just been named by his immediate predecessor, John Paul I; but Father Coyne … Continue reading →
I do two different kinds of “subscriber only” posts nowadays. The “And then I wrote” articles that come out on Thursday mornings are little bonuses to thank the people who subscribe. The other kind are diaries like this one, kept behind the firewall since that material is often “inside baseball” kind of stuff, or my own personal diary/blog, which would not be of interest to most people… just those friends of mine who are already interested enough to sign up. Of course, being a subscriber also gives you the chance to comment on what you read here. Sometimes people try to comment about our different articles by posting replies to Twitter. That doesn’t work, though, since most of the authors will never see what they had to say. In order for the author to read and reply, you need to sign in and comment in the comment section on this site! Lately, there have been people who subscribed but then … Continue reading →
And then I wrote… in 2014, I was honored with an honorary doctorate from Georgetown University. Of course, they made me sing for my supper… To the president, the provost, the dean, I thank you; honored guests, I greet you; to the Georgetown College Class of 2014, I congratulate you. I am honored to share this stage with you. As you have heard, I am an astronomer; I am also a Jesuit brother. And I work at the Vatican Observatory. A lot of people are surprised to hear that the Vatican City State has its own national observatory. That’s one of the reasons we have it: to surprise people. But there’s a long and honored history of the Church supporting astronomy. Jesuit astronomers helped Pope Gregory reform the calendar in 1582, and one of those Jesuits, Christopher Clavius, wrote a letter of recommendation for a young Galileo. There’s a crater on the moon named for Father Clavius, along with dozens … Continue reading →
And then I wrote… This month is when schools traditionally gather for commencement, and it’s been my honor to have been asked to give a number of commencement addresses; so I figured I would share them here. But this one is a bit different, since it was actually an address to the students of St. Aloysius, the Jesuit High School in Glasgow, Scotland, for their annual Prize Giving Day (which, I believe, was in September not May. The year was 2010, in any event.) As an American, my only experience with the peculiar tradition of giving prizes to high school students was what I had read in P. G. Wodehouse, and it usually involved much quantities of gin before the award. I skipped that part, though as you will see intoxication did play a significant role in what I told them… I am honored to be among you this afternoon, to add my congratulations to those of your faculty. I … Continue reading →
And then I wrote… Finishing up my string of articles for the International Year of Astronomy, this paper was one that I never got to give. I was supposed to fly from London to Italy for a conference on the celebration of Galileo’s telescope, to be held in his old home town of Padua, but the day my flight was scheduled to leave Gatwick the airport was shut down due to snow! The amount of snow would have been nothing in Chicago, but for London it constituted a major blizzard… It was finally published in the proceedings conference proceedings, Galileo’s Medicean Moons: their impact on 400 years of discovery As so many of the presentations at this conference have confirmed, Galileo’s discoveries with the telescope, epitomized by his discovery of satellites orbiting Jupiter, revolutionized astronomy. They also revolutionized our view of the universe, what has been come to be called our scientific “cosmology.” And in the process, they gave a new … Continue reading →
And then I wrote… Continuing my “Year of Astronomy”, here is an entry from March, 2009 for the “Cosmic Diary” blog… it’s a trip down memory lane, from when I was putting on 100,000 air miles a year. I’d stopped that foolishness even before the pandemic hit. A few paragraphs of a paper I submitted in late 2007 were the basis for a talk I gave last summer at the Asteroids, Comets, and Meteorites conference. It was about how the porosity of meteorites, and the porosity of the asteroids they come from, seem to show an interesting pattern… increasing, so that stuff appears to get fluffier and fluffier as you go further and further out in the asteroid belt and beyond. The talk last summer got a nice, favorable response from the conference attendees and so I decided I should write it up for the conference proceedings. Deadline, December 1, 2008. By January 2009 – only a month after the deadline … Continue reading →
It’s been a few months since I have given an update as to what we’ve been doing here at the Foundation. Of course, I did provide a couple of diaries describing the science happening here, but it’s also time to review the state of this site and the foundation in general. Our stats: As of today, we have 164 paid subscribers (three new subscribers since the last diary — thanks and welcome!) and 10,029 people (we’ve topped ten thousand!) who get notified of new postings. We continue to grow, but not nearly fast enough to keep us in business. Please tell more people about our site; and if you can, please subscribe at a rate of $10 a month (especially since you’re probably not going out to get donuts at this time) or $100 per year. And tell your friends about the site… Which brings us back why we do the work we do. Even – perhaps especially – in a … Continue reading →