sábado, 19 de setembro de 2015

New director appointed to Vatican Observatory

Pope Francis on Friday named Brother Guy Joseph Consolmagno, SJ as the new director of the Vatican Observatory. Jesuit Br Consolmagno is the current President of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, as well as curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Castel Gandolfo, one of the largest in the world.

His research explores the connections between meteorites and asteroids, and the origin and evolution of small bodies in the solar system.

Br Guy Consolmagno SJ was born in 1952 in Detroit, Michigan. He obtained his Bachelor of Science in 1974 and Master of Science in 1975 in Earth and Planetary Sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his PhD in Planetary Science from the University of Arizona in 1978. From 1978-80 he was a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer at the Harvard College Observatory, and from 1980-1983 continued as postdoc and lecturer at MIT.

In 1983 he left MIT to join the US Peace Corps, where he served for two years in Kenya teaching physics and astronomy. Upon his return to the US in 1985 he became an assistant professor of physics at Lafayette College, in Easton, Pennsylvania, where he taught until his entry into the Jesuit order in 1989. He took vows as a Jesuit brother in 1991, and studied philosophy and theology at Loyola University Chicago, and physics at the University of Chicago before his assignment to the Vatican Observatory in 1993.

In spring 2000 he held the MacLean Chair for Visiting Jesuit Scholars at St Joseph's University, Philadelphia, and in 2006-2007 held the Loyola Chair at Fordham University, New York. He has also been a visiting scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center and a visiting professor at Loyola College, Baltimore, and Loyola University, Chicago.

Br. Consolmagno has served on the governing boards of the Meteoritical Society; the International Astronomical Union's (IAU) Division III, Planetary Systems Science (secretary, 2000 - present) and Commission 16, Moons and Planets (president, 2003-2006); and the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences (chair, 2006-2007).

He has coauthored five astronomy books: "Turn Left at Orion" (with Dan M. Davis; Cambridge University Press, 1989); "Worlds Apart" (with Martha W. Schaefer; Prentice Hall, 1993); "The Way to the Dwelling of Light" (U of Notre Dame Press, 1998); "Brother Astronomer" (McGraw Hill, 2000); and "God's Mechanics" (Jossey-Bass, 2007). He also edited "The Heavens Proclaim" (Vatican Observatory Publications, 2009).

Br Consolmagno is curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Castel Gandolfo, one of the largest in the world. His research explores the connections between meteorites and asteroids, and the origin and evolution of small bodies in the solar system. In 1996, he spent six weeks collecting meteorites with an NSF-sponsored team on the blue ice of Antarctica, and in 2000 he was honored by the IAU for his contributions to the study of meteorites and asteroids with the naming of asteroid 4597 Consolmagno.

Source: indcatholicnews.com

terça-feira, 15 de setembro de 2015

A Couple Built a Meteorite Museum in the Middle of the ATACAMA Desert

This Couple Built a Meteorite Museum in the Middle of the Desert—And It's Awesome

Walk to the edge of town and then keep walking. There you’ll find a humble museum with a lot of heart. (Photos: Jo Piazza)

What’s a guy to do with millions of dollars worth of meteorites stored in a bunker deep below the desert?

Open a meteorite museum of course. And so that is exactly what Rodrigo Martinez after more than thirty years of collecting space junk from the Atacama desert in Northern Chile.

Martinez, a marine biologist by trade, discovered his first meteorite in the nearby Imilac crater in 1983 and he has been hooked on the hunt ever since. The Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on Earth, makes meteorite spotting easier than in most locations on the planet, due to both the climate and the fine red-and-brown sand which makes black space rocks particularly easy to see.

As he acquired a collection of meteorites, Martinez became something of an obsessive about the hobby and developed his own laboratory to analyze and classify the rocks as actual meteorites and not just black rocks misplaced in a sea of red.

Many of the meteorites are out in the open for visitors to handle.

Two years ago, Martinez constructed the Museo del Meteorito, a geodesic dome built on family land on the outskirts of downtown San Pedro de Atacama, about a 5-minute walk from the main drag of Caracoles. Signs for the museum are papered all over town and certain street corners are equipped with handmade rustic arrows pointing the visitor away from the adobe buildings and into the desert.

Follow them and you will arrive at the museo.

Martinez built everything himself, from the dome to the intricately detailed exhibits, many of which are more thorough than a meteorite exhibit you might find in a much fancier museum in a much fancier city.

“It was always a dream of mine to have a museum,” Martinez told me. “If we had more money, we would do a much bigger museum.”

It’s true, the museum is modest — really just a single room — but the exhibits are wildly informative and thorough.

Lest you think Martinez is something of a crackpot, let me tell you that there is actually some high-quality science happening here. Martinez promises all his meteorites are certified by NASA, the University of California at Los Angeles, and the French Centre Européen de Recherche et d’Enseignement des Géosciences de l’Environnement.

Today, Martinez claims to have more than $29 million in meteorites ready to be displayed, all of them from this region in Chile. Unlike most museums in the Northern hemisphere, visitors here can touch and handle the rocks.

Some of the larger pieces of rock weigh more than 30 kilograms. Martinez attaches magnets to them to show the composition of the metals.

There are guided tours in both Spanish and English and Martinez is often present to answer questions. He can tell you which rocks came from the mantle of a broken-down planet and which from the crust. He can even tell you about what happened when they hit the Earth, and give you an approximate estimation of when they arrived here.

The Atacama is littered with amateur astronomers ready and willing to show you some spectacular stars, but Martinez wants you to know that what he does is not astronomy.

The meteorites are grouped according to where they have been found and Martinez can decipher whether they came from a single planet.

“It is planetary geology,” he insists with a shy smile.

Intrepid space-junk seekers with some cash to spare can hire Martinez to take them out on a mission. He would be the first to tell you that you could go out into the desert on your own with a magnet and start a hunt for meteorites yourself, but there’s some comfort in bringing an expert along for the ride. The price is steep, just over $700 for one person, but it does include keeping any meteorites you may find. Martinez will cut the rocks with his specialized machinery and begin a preliminary study of its layers.

He tests the rock for nickel and ionizes the cut to look for conclusive evidence that you have discovered a meteorite. Martinez will then send it off to the proper authorities to be authenticated. That is a little harder for an amateur to do with just a map and a magnet.

Martinez and his wife run the museum together.

Source: www.yahoo.com