Do you know this face? If you don’t, then you surely know the name – Brother Guy Consolmagno, Vatican Astronomer. Ah, I hear some bells ringing in your head! So why is he important to so many of us? Then sit back and let me tell you a tale about the halcyon days of astronomy…
Once upon a time, there were no computer driven telescopes, no easy access planetarium programs just waiting on our desktops or laptop computer screens for us to find objects in the sky. Telescopes were simply telescopes and astronomy clubs were rare. If you were just learning, you were on your own with what you could find at the library. And, for many of you (like me) Brother Guy’s famous work “Turn Left At Orion” was our teacher. Through its pages I learned what made my telescope work and how to aim at objects in the sky and find them. But even more importantly, he taught me to educate myself about what I was looking at.
Over the years I wore the covers and bindings off of three copies of “Turn Left At Orion”. My original is held together with rubber bands and still holds a place of honor on my bookshelf, for its many grass stains and coffee rings proclaim the nights I’ve spent with it under the stars. Pages have been photocopied and handed out to others who were just beginning and the legend of Brother Guy Consolmagno passed on to the next generation of stargazers. Yet for all of this time I had spent with this book, it never once occurred to me to think of its author as a person…
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Through the magic of the times that we now live in, we instantly communicate with people around the world – allowing us to make friends in places where we’d never dreamed we could be. One such astronomy friend of mine, Deirdre, is part of the Irish Astronomical Society, and when she told me of her visit with Guy Consolmagno? I just about fainted. He’s real? The man is real? Of course he’s real. You know he’s real. But is he really for real? And the answer is… He’s not only real – but he’s the type of person who would spend a night out under the stars with you.
So often in our hurried, modern world we forget the simple joys of life. Music, friends, starlight… We have conceptions of how we believe things should be, and not what they are. Astronomers can only listen to classical music and have to be stiff scientists, right? Wrong. Stop and visit with one of the most inspirational of all:
The next time you’re out with a telescope, why not unplug the electronics and go manual? Get out your old refractor or reflector and your book of charts. Breathe in the night around you and be curious about the things you look at. Maybe turn on some rock and roll? And when you get to Orion…
Brother Guy Consolmagno is the curator of meteorites at the Vatican Observatory. He has an extensive academic background and has written more than 100 scientific publications alongside numerous books. I would personally like to thank him for being part of the inspiration that made me what I am today. If you, too, owe part of what you are to Brother Guy’s work… why not tell him so here? I’m sure he’s listening.