One of the ways I have been entertaining myself since the coronavirus lockdowns began is to follow the lead of my friend, the historian and science fiction author Ada Palmer, in posting a photograph every day on Twitter of #SomethingBeautiful — if you want to follow me, I’m @specolations — and this means digging through my cell phone for nice photographs. After a few months I realized I needed to start generating some new ones! Meanwhile, with the temperature in Tucson now regularly exceeding 100 F I have returned to my routine of sunrise walks (when the temperature is a mere 80 F) and discovering again how gorgeous the skies in Tucson can be at that hour. The great thing about making a habit of casual photography — I use nothing more than my iPhone and its standard Photo software — is that it makes you actually notice things you might otherwise walk past. It makes you be more aware … 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.
And then I wrote: As I mentioned last week, in 2009 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. 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… 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 … 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 →
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And then I wrote… Along with being interviewed in a literary blog (see the past two weeks) the year 2009 also saw me preparing a number of blog posts for a once-popular blog site called Live Journal. (Who would have thought that “blogs” would have disappeared so quickly? Another thing to blame on Facebook…) Most of what I wrote was ephemeral, but a few items are worth taking another look at. And the year 2009 was also the year that the Specola moved from its quarters of 70-odd years to new quarters in the Papal Gardens. Moving is never easy; especially when it means moving books that look so enticing to read. This one was a biography that, at first glance, has nothing to do with astronomy, but a lot to do with fame. [In order to read the rest of this post, you have to be a paid-up member of Sacred Space, and logged in as such!]Continue reading →
And then I wrote… Last week I ran the first part of my interview that ran in early 2010 on the blog site Vulpis Libris. Here’s the rest of the interview… 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 all had advanced degrees, at a time when there was a huge need for educational reform in Europe, and so they were asked to set up schools throughout Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. These schools trained not just clergy but also the children of the burgeoning middle class. The … Continue reading →
And then I wrote… Ten years ago, blogs were all the rage, and one in particular that found me (soon after I had published God’s Mechanics) was a book-review site in the UK called Vulpis Libris — “Book Fox” for the Latin-challenged. The blog site moved to a Facebook page in 2017, and since I don’t do Facebook I have no idea what it’s up to anymore. But as it was about books, and I had written a book, they reached out for what turned out to be a lengthy interview. They ran it in two pieces, so that’s how I will run it here. The Interviewer was Kirsty McCluskey, who has gone on to become a respected and widely published journalist (under a number of different names…) Which questions do you most often hear when you do science outreach? “Would you baptize an extraterrestrial?” I have tried being funny (“only if they ask”) and tried being serious. (I wrote … Continue reading →
We had a wonderful turnout (around 30 people total) for our first ever Full Moon Meetup, open to our paid subscribers. We were joined by Fr. Paul Gabor, the vice-director for Tucson, who told us about the reopening of the VATT and the research going on there, including a lively discussion about exoplanets and Kuiper Belt Objects. We plan on holding these MoonUps every Full Moon (as seen from Tucson). This allows us to remember our calendar’s roots, where the “month” is just a shortened form of a “moon-th”, while also letting the day of the meetup circulate through the week. That means our next Meet Up will be on Saturday, July 4, 10am Tucson Time/1pm EDT. Tune in for fireworks! Meanwhile, our 2019 Annual Report is now in the mail. This publication is sent to all of our donors, describing what we were able to accomplish in 2019. Which, I confess, feels like about a decade ago. And it … Continue reading →
(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 →
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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 →