Today’s post is going up halfway between the Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6, and Christmas on December 25. Obviously people in many places give Christmas gifts, and in some places they give gifts for St. Nick’s Day (particularly to children who hang up stockings). And in this post I’m going to encourage you, O Reader of The Catholic Astronomer, to give a gift to a telescope; to stick something in science’s stocking. And I encourage you to do this whether you are a devout Catholic who likes science, or a staunch atheist who likes science. I will explain that in a moment, but first let me explain something about The Catholic Astronomer blog.
This blog* exists in part to be educational and cool. But it exists first of all to support the VATT—the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, which resides on Mt. Graham in Arizona. The VATT needs support. It was built back in the early 1990’s with funds from some generous donors. But while it is still a good telescope, it is no longer a new telescope. Keeping it running costs money. This blog generates funds for the VATT through subscriptions to the blog.
You can click here and subscribe to the blog for as little as $10 per month. Yes, ten bucks. Look, ya’ll, the Vatican Observatory ain’t NASA! Small contributions matter. As I understand it (and I'm not the expert on this) the V.O.’s operations at Castel Gandolfo in Italy are covered by the Vatican, which receives much of its income through tourism (so thus tourism supports science); and the Jesuits provide the V.O. with astronomers, including the V.O.’s Director, Brother/Doctor Guy Consolmagno. The main funding need is the VATT. Thus, ten bucks a month matters. Of course, you can subscribe at a higher level, too, and chip in even more.
What do you get for subscribing? First of all, you get to support a telescope and know that your support makes a difference. And, you get to COMMENT on the blog posts. We love comments. We pay attention to them. We would like more of them. We try to respond to them—you can see that in the ‘recent comments’ bar at right. There are some other doodads you get, too, but the commenting is the cool part, in my opinion.
So, if you are a devout Catholic, click here and subscribe to The Catholic Astronomer. It’s a science blog run by the Director of the Vatican Observatory, appointed by the Pope. Our bloggers write about stuff from current science, to what’s visible in the sky, to theology, to astro-art, to history. It’s a great Catholic web resource. And, you are supporting the Vatican Observatory’s biggest telescope. You are supporting science, with a major Catholic twist.
And, if you are an ardent atheist, click here and subscribe to The Catholic Astronomer. You wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t at least find The Catholic Astronomer interesting. And, the Vatican Observatory is a different model for doing science. As Dr. Consolmagno often notes in his talks, the Jesuits are less tied to the usual structures in science of funding and promotion than are other scientists, so they can do different sorts of things in science. And the astronomers at the V.O. do indeed produce the science. V.O. Director Dr. Consolmagno manages to keep publishing, despite being an administrator. One of the younger astronomers on the V.O.’s staff, Richard A. D’Souza (S.J., Ph.D), seems to crank out publications like a machine. So, you are supporting science that is productive, different, quirky and a little weird.
And if you are neither a devout Catholic nor an ardent atheist, click here and subscribe to The Catholic Astronomer. It’s a blog you like, that features a variety of topics from current science to history to theology. You are supporting a big telescope and your support matters. And you are supporting science that is productive, different, quirky and a little weird.
Thank you for putting something in the VATT’s stocking a little late, or under the VATT’s tree a little early!
(Here's a bit from a video on the V.O. Go to the 1 minute, 20 second mark to pick up at the construction of the VATT.)
*For the record:
The Catholic Astronomer is the blog of the Vatican Observatory Foundation.
Supporting scientific research into the knowledge of the universe and education of the public based upon the knowledge derived from that research.
In the early 1990’s the marvels of technology and the commitment of a few visionary philanthropists made possible the creation of the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, which empowered scientists to look with more acute “eyes” into the universe. Today, the VATT continues to provide stunning access to the heavens for researchers from around the globe. Combined with other technologies and the continued commitment of Vatican Observatory scientists, our work is literally pushing the boundaries of what we know and how we know it.
Each year members of the Observatory staff share their expertise by making educational presentations to over 5,000 persons from 90 educational, religious and academic groups. With recent technology the staff can now use the telescope remotely enabling expanded educational outreach programs for students and the public. Vatican Observatory scientists are playing an increasingly important role in the dialogue on science and religious faith.
To ensure the important work of the Vatican Observatory continues into the future, the Vatican Observatory Foundation was established in 1987 as a tax-exempt, charitable organization in the United States. The VOF's first priority was funding the construction of the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope. With the generous support of the twelve founding benefactors the VATT was built and dedicated by Pope John Paul II in 1993.
The Foundation today remains committed to the VATT as its first priority, seeking philanthropic support for its ongoing maintenance and modernization. Recently this modernization has included the addition of a new spectrograph, the use of the Galway Ultra Fast Imager (GUFI) and the development of remote observing capability. All of which serve to enhance research at the observatory and the foundation’s educational mission. From international seminars and presentations to local educational outreach programs for students and the general public it is our mission to promote and encourage the scientific research of the Vatican Observatory.