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Heinlein Connection Discovered at Vatican 
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Post Heinlein Connection Discovered at Vatican
Some while ago, I was at the Vatican Observatory, assisting Guy Consolmagno, S.J. with an inventory of the meteorite collection (long story).

As you may know, meteorites are named for the town nearest the spot where they are found. I was going through drawers, reading off labels, while Brother Guy, in the next room, checked the label data against his database.

I came to an iron object labeled "BUTLER, USA, Found 1874." This rang a bell. "Which Butler?" I asked.

Brother Guy peered at his screen. "Missouri," he said.

I pointed out that this meteorite had been found in Robert Heinlein's hometown, 33 years before his birth.

Knowing you would want to see it, I persuaded Brother Guy to take photos.

Image
WSH & Butler Meteorite Gleaming by beamjockey, on Flickr

Image
Butler MO 1874 Meteorite detail by beamjockey, on Flickr


The Vatican Observatory's Butler specimen, a nickel-iron meteorite, has been neatly cut from a larger object and polished.

Might it be that nobody in the meteorite business has ever made this connection? As Pasteur said, "Chance favors the prepared mind."

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Fri Jan 24, 2014 7:18 pm
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Heinlein Nexus
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Post Re: Heinlein Connection Discovered at Vatican
beamjockey wrote:
Some while ago, I was at the Vatican Observatory, assisting Guy Consolmagno, S.J. with an inventory of the meteorite collection (long story).


Rarely has one sentence provoked so many questions. You have a colorful past.


Sat Jan 25, 2014 5:08 am
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Post Re: Heinlein Connection Discovered at Vatican
PeterScott wrote:
beamjockey wrote:
Some while ago, I was at the Vatican Observatory, assisting Guy Consolmagno, S.J. with an inventory of the meteorite collection (long story).

Rarely has one sentence provoked so many questions. You have a colorful past.

Well, I have colorful friends, at least. Some years after I met him, Dr. Guy Consolmagno decided to become a Jesuit brother. After his novitiate and some further training, he was assigned to the Vatican Observatory south of Rome. As a planetary astronomer, he wound up becoming curator of the meteorite collection.

He has been based at Castel Gandolfo for most of the past 20 years. His public lectures, his meteorite work, and his books have taken him to seven continents and he has taught at universities in the U.S. and Australia.

He passes through Chicago once or twice a year, usually staying with us here at the Nuclear Arms. When we're at an SF convention in the same town, Guy and I usually team up to do science talks together. (Anybody going to Boskone next month? We're doing a talk on Chelyabinsk.) We once lectured together for a course at the Adler Planetarium.

My wife and I have wanted to visit the Vatican Observatory since Brother Guy started working there. This fall we managed at last to fly to Rome. The Jesuits generously put us up in their guest apartment. When we weren't being tourists, we assisted Guy with various things: commenting on his latest manuscript, helping with inventory, reviewing lab safety, planning future outreach talks and articles, etc. We got to know some of the other astronomers. I gave a talk. Guy showed us the telescopes in the twin domes on the roof of the papal summer palace, and the pontifical gardens, and the pontifical farm. It was an amazing privilege to be there.

So that's how I came to be standing on Vatican territory, holding a rock that once fell on Butler, Missouri.

This may not answer all the questions you've thought of, but perhaps it's a start.

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Sun Jan 26, 2014 10:49 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein Connection Discovered at Vatican
beamjockey wrote:
Guy showed us the telescopes . . .


Were you able to do any observing through the Zeiss 16 inch refractor? That is one sweet looking telescope.


Tue Jan 28, 2014 7:34 am
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Post Re: Heinlein Connection Discovered at Vatican
BillMullins wrote:
Were you able to do any observing through the Zeiss 16 inch refractor? That is one sweet looking telescope.
It sure is. Sadly, it was cloudy on the nights when we could have done that.

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Tue Jan 28, 2014 8:29 pm
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