Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009
Today’s science section of The New York Times contains the following article on the Vatican’s observatory. As the author notes, few realize that the Church continues to contribute significantly to the science of astronomy.
Located in the deserts of Arizona, the observatory’s super-sized telescopes went online in 1995. George Johnson shadowed two of the astronomers who work there, and this is what he reports.
Click here for the original post.
June 23, 2009
Vatican’s Celestial Eye, Seeking Not Angels but Data
By GEORGE JOHNSON
MOUNT GRAHAM, Ariz. – Fauré’s “Requiem” is playing in the background, followed by the Kronos Quartet. Every so often the music is interrupted by an electromechanical arpeggio – like a jazz riff on a clarinet – as the motors guiding the telescope spin up and down. A night of galaxy gazing is about to begin at the Vatican’s observatory on Mount Graham.
“Got it. O.K., it’s happy,” says Christopher J. Corbally, the Jesuit priest who is vice director of the Vatican Observatory Research Group, as he sits in the control room making adjustments. The idea is not to watch for omens or angels but to do workmanlike astronomy that fights the perception that science and Catholicism necessarily conflict.
Last year, in an opening address at a conference in Rome, called “Science 400 Years After Galileo Galilei,” Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the secretary of state of the Vatican, praised the church’s old antagonist as “a man of faith who saw nature as a book written by God.” In May, as part of the International Year of Astronomy, a Jesuit cultural center in Florence conducted “a historical, philosophical and theological re-examination” of the Galileo affair. But in the effort to rehabilitate the church’s image, nothing speaks louder than a paper by a Vatican astronomer in, say, The Astrophysical Journal or The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
On a clear spring night in Arizona, the focus is not on theology but on the long list of mundane tasks that bring a telescope to life. As it tracks the sky, the massive instrument glides on a ring of pressurized oil. Pumps must be activated, gauges checked, computers rebooted. The telescope’s electronic sensor, similar to the one in a digital camera, must be cooled with liquid nitrogen to keep the megapixels from fuzzing with quantum noise.
As Dr. Corbally rushes from station to station flicking switches and turning dials, he seems less like a priest or even an astronomer than a maintenance engineer. Finally when everything is ready, starlight scooped up by the six-foot mirror is chopped into electronic bits, which are reconstituted as light on his video screen.
O Christ, Good Shepherd, I thank you for leading me to glory;
I pray that the flock you have entrusted ot my care
will share with me in your glory forever.
Today the Order remembers the first Dominican pope, Peter of Tarentaise, who took the name Innocent V. He was elected to the See of Peter just sixty years after the foundation of the Order. Before settling in Rome, Peter earned a reputation as a brilliant teacher. His writings won him the title doctor famosissimus (“most famous doctor”).
From the Dominican Ordo:
Peter of Tarentaise was born in Savoy around 1224 and as a young man entered the Order at Lyons. He was sent to study at Parish where he took the master’s degree and was given a chair at the university. Together with Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Albert the Great, and two other Dominicans he was commissioned by the General Chapter of 1259 to draw up the first plan of studies for the Order. In 1272 he was named archbishop of Lyons and created Cardinal Bishop of Ostia. He was one of the outstanding figures at the Council of Lyons where he labored for the restoration of unity between the churches of East and west. In 1276 Peter was elected Pope and took the name Innocent. He died within five months of his election on June 22, 1276.
Click here for more on the life of Blessed Innocent V.
Christie’s has listed a medieval manuscript of Bl. Innocent’s Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard. If you have $14,500 lying around, you might consider snatching it for your collection. Click here for details.
God of truth,
you bestowed on Blessed Innocent
the gifts of knowledge and prudence
and made him a promoter of peace and unity.
By the help of his prayers
may we cherish what is of heaven
and in perfect unity follow what is right.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.