In Arizona, no less. It’s not a fabrication of either fundamentalist Christians or American conservatives going bonkers about Cardinal Mahony and who want to shut down the Mexican influx. It’s about telescopes. Really.
Some of you knew the Vatican Observatory operates a telescope on Mt Graham in Arizona, right? A few of you might also know that many modern observatories consist of several telescopes, and that various universities and science institutions more or less cooperate to share an ideal viewing location. In the case of Mt Graham, a low-humidity, high elevation site to minimize atmospheric interference.
Next door to the Jesuit-run telescope on Mt Graham is the Large Binocular Telescope. And the LBT was recently enhanced by an installation of an instrument, the “Large Binocular Telescope Near-infrared Utility with Camera and Integral Field Unit for Extragalactic Research.” When I render that instrument as an acronym, I get LBTNUCIFUER. Apparently that was hard to pronounce, so a few consonants and a vowel were dropped to get LUCIFER.
“Light bearer” is actually a decently accurate name for an instrument that will image near-infrared (just beyond the red in the spectrum) radiation and probe more deeply into the universe. What I find hilarious is what came up when I did a Google search for “lucifer telescope vatican” and found all sorts of creepy end-of-the-world conspiracy theories. It actually reminded me of the “smoke of satan” legend dating from the days of Pope Paul VI. It was also a reminder of how truly bad internet reporting can be. They got the science wrong. They got the Church wrong. They even got the simple facts wrong. And blogs have the nerve to complain about the NYT.
I think astronomers need more of a sense of humor. Like when Mike Brown nicknamed the dwarf planet he discovered in 2005 for Xena, the warrior princess of cheesecake tv. Something more innocuous than the adversary of God … something like Biff. Bodacious Infra-red Field Finder.