Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Pope Francis Welcomes Ecumenical Patriarchate Delegation to the Vatican

On 27 June 2017,a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate was received in a private audience by His Holiness Pope Francis at the Vatican.They came to Rome bearing greetings for the Pope on the occasion of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul,the Thronal Feast of the Church of Rome.The delegation consisted of His Eminence Archbishop Job of Telmessos;Very Rev. Ambrosios Chorozidis,Grand Sykellos of the Ecumenical Patriarchate;and Very Rev. Archimandrite Agathangelos Siskos,Librarian of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.Also attending from the Vatican were His Eminence Kurt Cardinal Koch,President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity;His Excellency Bishop Brian Farrell,Secretary of the Pontifical Council;and Monsignor Andrea Palmieri,Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council.*
Archbishop Job carried a letter to the Pope from His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.It read in part:
We were particularly pleased to learn that the fourteenth meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue last September in Chieti (Italy),between our Churches was conducted in an atmosphere of fraternal collaboration and mutual theological exchange,sucessfully producing an important common document on primacy and synodality in the first millennium.Thus,this Commission has proposed new steps on the common path towards unity.Now,the Commission will be entering a new phase of the dialogue.It is our prayer that the Coordinating Committee scheduled for September on the island of Leros (Greece) will be fruitful by producing a common theme and a methodology for the next stage of our discussions.*
Following the audience,the delegation was received for lunch by His Holiness Pope Francis and later had conversations with the members of the Pontifical Council.On 28 June,they will attend the Consistory for the creation of new Cardinals.They will then attend the Solemn Mass for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on 29 June at the Vatican.*
According to tradition,the Vatican will reciprocate by sending a delegation to Constantinople/Istanbul on 30 November,the Feast of St.Andrew,which is the Thronal Feast of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What NASA Astronomers Do - observational specialist graphs his career and the history of the science

Dr.Ted Gull,astronomer emeritus at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt,Maryland,described what it has been like to be an astronomer for the past 50 years-perhaps a harder job than people think-to a handful of astronomy buffs at C.Burr Artz Library in Frederick,Maryland as part of the library's Discover Space initiative this summer.Dr.Gull has been with NASA for 37 of those years,during which he has authored 597 papers.He is still continuing his research beyond his retirement two years ago.As an emeritus at GSFC,he gets a study carrel in an office he shares with 12 other people,and a computer.He has traveled so widely since retirement,he and his wife have only been home eight months over the past two years.He's been working in Sweden,Italy and Chile,among other places.*
Dr.Gull graduated from MIT in 1966,one of a group of twelve physics majors who went on to get degrees in astronomy.In the 1960s,he pointed out,photo diodes were used to measure the light of a star,one star at a time.Images were captured on 14x14 glass plates coated with a photo-sensitive emulsion-at Mt.Palomar,California,for instance,home of the then stupendous 200-inch Hale Telescope.Spectrographs were then,as they are now,one of the major tools that astronomers use.A spectrograph is a device that separates light into its wavelengths and records the data,or spectrum.University of Wisconsin astronomer Blair Savage put it this way:
A picture may be worth a thousand words;but a spectrum is worth a thousand pictures.*
Until the 1980s,Dr.Gull recalled,astronomy was very laborious,carried out in very cold conditions at night.Astronomers often worked 18 hour days preparing observations,calibrating telescopes,making the observations at night,developing and cataloging the photographic plates.It was like this until the advent of the CCD solid state devices,or charged coupled devices,which directly recorded the images,read them electronically,and provided data for processing by computer.We are developing new CCD detectors every day for future missions-and they have many military applications as well.*
The early space telescopes were OAO-1 and OAO-2 (Copernicus).Such astronomy projects took months,years-even decades-to develop.They were computer-controlled,but with primitive computers at first.The iPhone 7 is a thousand times faster than those computers were.Eventually,however,as technology progressed,observatory observations started being made in university offices hundreds or even thousands of miles from the actual telescopes.Yet even today someone still has to be on site at the observatory to operate the telescope,make sure it's working right and make weather observations.You still need clear skies for observing.*
The International Ultraviolet Explorer Telescope lasted for 18 years,from 1978-96,until its funding ran out.It was the first remotely interactive observatory.From its data,thousands of published papers and over 100 PhD theses were generated.Indeed,papers based on its data are still being written to this day.*
Dr.Gull worked directly with the astronauts for two years between the Apollo and Space Shuttle eras,preparing them for Space Shuttle astronomy projects.*
The Astro-1 space telescope was attached to the Space Shuttle.Dr.Gull was chief scientist of the mission.It was the mission from hell,Dr.Gull joked.Initially,it was to be on five different shuttle missions,and two astronomers were to fly on the shuttle as mission specialists.Dr.Gull removed himself from consideration for becoming an astronaut-a decision he doesn't regret.The Space Shuttle Challenger accident led to a hiatus of four and a half years for Astro-1,but it finally got to fly on 2-11 December 1990,and a second time five years later,which went beautifully.Astro-1 was beset by hardware problems,but they were all resolved.In the end,Astro-1 got 50% of the observations they had hoped for,and its data generated 100 papers.*
The Hubble Space Telescope was conceived by Lyman Spitzer in the 1940s as a way to circumvent the murkiness of the Earth's atmosphere,as you cannot see ultraviolet radiation through the atmosphere.Launched in 1990,it is still operational after 26 years in orbit.Its mirror is 2.4 meters in aperture.HST needed periodic upgrades and repairs.The correction of lenses and mirrors were needed;and gyros,computers and solar panels had to be changed over the course of five servicing missions.The last repair mission was in 2009,and HST is still working beautifully.
The HST mirrors were modified so as to fit in with the spy satellites the shuttle had to carry as well,Dr.Gull noted.HST is expected to be in orbit until the 2030s.It has a 96 minute orbit and is traveling at 18,000 mph.During its life,we have gone from reel-to-reel tape to all solid state memory.
Everything that goes up into space still has to be radiation-hardened,Dr.Gull added.It takes up to ten years to devise hardening for something.*
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope will be launched in 2018 from French Guiana on a European Space Agency Ariane V rocket,which demonstrates the international nature of the programme.It is named after James Webb,the first administrator of NASA.Dr.Gull actually met James Webb and feels that he was a visionary.While Dr.Gull has been photographed next to the JWST,he isn't directly involved with it.Its mission is to peer back to the first stars and galaxies in the universe,in the first 300 million years of the universe's existence.Its mirror is 6.5 meters across.*
As for his own research,there is a nebulous,or gaseous,region in the constellation Orion.Dr.Gull noticed that one of the Orion nebula's stars has an arc around it.That means the star has a wind.The star is moving through an ionised region of the nebula,creating a bow wave.Stars have massive winds,and there are over a dozen examples of this.
His favourite celestial object is the Eta Carinae binary star system.It is a Southern Hemisphere object.Eta Carinae is a massive binary that is nearing the end of its life.Eventually,two supernovae will result from it.Why is this binary so important?The first stars that formed in the universe were massive,and most likely binaries,Dr.Gull explained.This binary system is producing huge amounts of Nitrogen.Our own bodies are made of such star stuff,so we are trying to understand ourselves when we learn what the first stars were like,and how they enrich the interstellar medium.
Dr.Gull continues to do his research using the Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory,as well as the Atacama Large Millimeter Array radio telescope in Chile.Such is the life of discovery of a sharp scientific mind engaged in NASA astronomy.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

First cub photo gives hope for critically endangered Balkan lynx - Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

First cub photo gives hope for critically endangered Balkan lynx: A rare subspecies of Eurasian lynx numbers less than 50 individuals – but a newborn has just been found in the wild, raising hopes for the species' survival

Massive USAF Bomber Presence in Europe - first time ever

Two US Air Force Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bombers out of Whiteman Air Force Base,Missouri have been sent to RAF Fairford,England.Arriving on 9 June 2017,they are part of a short-term assurance and deterrence operation.The aircraft joined three B-52H Stratofortress and three B-1B Lancer bombers already in theatre.This marks the first time all three of US Strategic Command's nuclear capable bombers have been deployed to Europe simultaneously.
These deployments enhance the readiness and training necessary to respond to any contingency or challenge across the globe,according to US Air Forces Europe-Air Forces Africa.*
Colonel Jared Kennish,commander,322nd Air Expeditionary Group,described the operation:
The bomber assurance and deterrence missions these three aircraft are supporting are key to reinforcing our commitment to our Allies in NATO-in a very visible,very tangible way-that we stand shoulder to shoulder with them,no matter what.This short-term deployment demonstrates the flexibile global strike capabilities of the US bomber force,and ensures bomber crews maintain a high state of readiness.The training will provide opportunities to integrate capabilities with regional partners,and is part of the United States' commitment to supporting global security.*
The B-52Hs,B-1Bs and about 800 Airmen are also supporting NATO exercises Saber Strike and BALTOPS in the European theatre;while the B-2s are there solely for the basic assurance and deterrence mission.*
Northrop Grumman (NOC)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

NASA 2017 Astronaut Candidates - up close - several are military members

World Council of Churches Takes Part in Orthodox Service-plus Patriarch Bartholomew's special inclusive prayer

The World Council of Churches joined the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem for the services of Pentecost,plus a special ecumenical prayer service,in Jerusalem from 4-5 June 2017.WCC General Secretary Rev.Dr.Olav Fyske Tveit was welcomed by His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem and All Palestine.At the Pentecost Divine Liturgy on 4 June,Rev.Dr.Tveit was joined by the concelebrants their Eminences Metropolitan Isychios of Kapitolias;Archbishop Theodosios (Hanna) of Sebastia;Archbishop Demetrios of Lydda;and Metropolitan Joachim of Helenoupolis,as well as other members of the Hagiotaphite Brotherhood (Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre),local parishoners and pilgrims.After the Divine Liturgy,representatives of the WCC joined in the Orthodox kneeling prayers of Pentecost.Archbishop Theodosios (Hanna) of Sebastia is a Palestinian Arab.Educated in Greece,he worked his way up the ranks of the Jerusalem Patriarchate.He has recently been included in several high profile services with His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III.*
On 5 June,the Monday of the Holy Spirit,a special ecumenical prayer service was held at the Dormition Abbey,Jerusalem,and centered on the theme of prayer for worldwide justice and peace.For this service,His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople composed the following inclusive prayer:
A Prayer For Pentecost
Almighty Father,who created all things out of love and fashioned all people in your image,who sent your only Son for the life of the world,to bring light to those dwelling in darkness:look down from the heavens and hear our prayer for unity and peace.
Lord Jesus,Word of God,who spoke through the prophets and judges,who is revealed through the least of your brothers and sisters,who desires that all should be saved and that your disciples should be one:reconcile the scattered parts of your body.
Heavenly King,Comforter,the Spirit of Truth,present everywhere and filling all things,the treasury of goodness and giver of life:come and dwell within us and among us,by cleansing us from the stain of division and healing us from the pain of suffering.
From this Upper Room and Holy Land,we stretch out our hands in prayer and open up our hearts in compassion,so the world may believe you are the living God and that "God is love."