Since my last posting about what we’re up to, several other members of the Vatican Observatory have chimed in with their short reports on what they've been up to in this time of pandemic...
In the spring semester, Fr. Paul Mueller SJ normally teaches a philosophy of science course at the Pontifical Gregorian University; his offering this year is “Philosophical Questions in Biology”. And of course now he has shifted to on-line teaching, Meanwhile, as the superior of the community and vice-director of the Observatory, he has charge of the day to day running of the operation in Castel Gandolfo. He writes, “I’ve been working day-to-day with the Observatory’s lay staff members to determine whether they will come to work and what they can be doing, within the limits we must observe. All of us Jesuits have had extra time for reading and prayer. And last evening we had a cookout!”
Fr. Gabriele Gionti SJ is also in Castel Gandolfo. He writes, “In this period of shutdown for Covid-19 I am working on my research [in quantum gravity]. In particular, after submitting my latest paper to the electronic archives, I answered e-mails of other scientists asking questions on it. This has given me new ideas how to start new research lines. I am continuing my pastoral activities doing spiritual directions through Skype and social media as well as continuing to give hope a courage to many friends on the phone. Since we are in quarantine, we have more spiritual activities in Community, Masses together, Office of the hours and special prayers with the Pope on television as well as more social activities within our community”
Back in Tucson, Fr. Richard Boyle SJ continues his research on stellar photometry: “For this VATT shutdown time, I am enjoying processing and analyzing my VATT observations of January 20 - 29 on star cluster NGC 188, first time observed in the detail of the Vilnius photometric system. I hope to show new information about stellar evolution by a comparison of this old 4.3-billion yr. cluster to the also old, 2.6-billion yr. cluster M 67.”
Finally, Br. Bob Macke SJ is waiting things out in northern California, where he had been assigned for a Jesuit program called Tertianship, the last stage of Jesuit formation leading up to final vows. He had been assigned to work at Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose, California... until the high school went online. He writes, “Between Tertianship and getting stranded in San Jose, I haven't had much opportunity lately to do much research. Nevertheless, I recently received news that two papers for which I am listed as a coauthor (with two different groups of collaborators) have been accepted for publication. I am currently involved in a project to use the Bellarmine College Preparatory School's Maker Lab to produce inexpensive protective gear for medical workers, for whom such equipment is in short supply.”