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Conspiracies & Catholicism: Lucifer and the Vatican

July 28, AD2015

wonder, universe, creation, ponder

Did you know that the Vatican is working with LUCIFER?

It’s true!

People also say they’re looking for aliens! Well, sort of.

Actually, they’re working right next door to each other, doing their own things, and sometimes collaborate. And I’m not saying LUCIFER in all caps because I am yelling, or even for emphasis, but because it’s more properly L. U. C. I. F. E. R., the Large Binocular Telescope Near-infrared Utility with Camera and Integral Field Unit for Extragalactic Research.

It’s rather obvious that, yes, they worked hard to get the name of Satan worked in there.

Where does the Vatican come in?

It starts, as so many of these things, with the Jesuits.

Yes, I giggled at that; they really are the go-to group for when one of these stories doesn’t want to name the entire Church, aren’t they?

In this case, they’re involved because they run the Vatican Observatory group. According to their website at Vaticanobservatory.VA:  They are a dozen research astronomers (mostly Jesuit priests, but also including two Jesuit brothers and one diocesan priest) plus a number of support staff, emeritus staff, and adjunct scholars. We come from many different nations and cultures, representing nearly every continent.

In fairness, the Observatory group was founded for an ulterior reason, because Pope Leo XIII wanted to demonstrate that science and religion aren’t opposed. He formally set them up in 1891. (The connection between the Church and science is not an unknown theme to readers of this site, but people do tend to learn best from ongoing demonstrations.) Previous iterations were set up for specific purposes, including reforming the calendar, and the first formal Vatican Observatory was founded in 1774. There were only a few years between when the last one ended and the current one got going.

All that said, the non-science motive of demonstrating that faith and science aren’t inherently opposed can only be fulfilled by producing good science, which they have done in spades. This essential need had required them to have three different telescope sites– they were first in Rome proper, then moved to Castle Gandalfo when things became too bright for their needs; eventually they needed someplace with an even clearer, darker view of the sky– and that’s where the Mount Graham International Observatory in Arizona comes in, and thus the association with LUCIFER.

What is LUCIFER?

As I previously said, LUCIFER is the quite obviously deeply desired name for the Large Binocular Telescope Near-infrared Utility with Camera and Integral Field Unit for Extragalactic Research– it’s the telescope itself. The place it’s housed is the just the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory, one of three groups at the Mount Graham International Observatory. (The third is the Arizona Radio Observatory, which you’d probably recognize as “that huge dish that shows up in a lot of movies and documentaries.”) It actually took a little digging to find an official page that used the full “LUCIFER” name– the LBTO website calls them LUCI1 and LUCI2; the University of Arizona (who hosts the Mount Graham observatory site as part of their department of Astronomy) does describe the two of them as LUCIFER, and links to a (rather outdated) German website.

Now, the Germans do have a right to name it– they designed it and presumably paid for it, although the mirror was finished in the US and the mount was made in Italy. Originally, the name was for each telescope. LUCI1 is not very attention-getting, so I’d guess that someone thought it would be a great PR opportunity that would get everyone talking… as it obviously did.

The whole “Morning Star”/”Light Bearer” pun was probably irresistible to a wide range of people involved, much like some very pious people name their shedding animals “Lucy.” (Lucy-fur is evil, you see.) There’s also the way that they’re chilled to -213c, which alludes rather nicely to Dante, and when you add in the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope already being there… well, the association is pretty clear. I’m not sure if the way it “sees” in near infrared might have been a stretch– red, devil, eh? Yeah, that’s probably too much of a stretch.

What are they doing?

Looking at stars, in really cool ways. Negative 350 degrees Fahrenheit cool.

Even though the famous Brother Guy has been a draw at some sci fi conventions, and he is the head of the observatory foundation (as opposed to research group), I can’t find anything where he’s even applied to use so much as LUCI1 or 2, much less to look for aliens. The observatory that has LUCIFER is checking out planets beyond our system, but while it’s awesome, it’s not using LUCI1 and 2. Also, unless someone’s got a Death Star going, we’d have a rather hard time finding aliens by looking for planets.

Brother Guy does talk a lot about aliens, because people like to read about them, and it’s his job to get people interested. Sort of like how someone with much less skill might use other interesting things, like conspiracy theories, to try to get people to have fun and learn something at the same time! (They probably won’t invite me to Sasquan. I’m a Gamer, even if I had a fraction of his skill with conveying information, or of his knowledge. But I can dream!)

It’s worth noting that LUCIFER– if we use that to mean LUCI1 and 2 working in concert, as designed– doesn’t exist yet. LUCI2 only got working this January, and they’re upgrading LUCI1 (hardware and software) with the goal of LUCIFER being functional at some point in the near future.

If by LUCIFER you mean the head demon, then sadly: yes, he’s functional and has been for a long time. He’s worked on and through all sorts of people. I think I know what my next article is going to be, because I’m out of time and space!

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Wife, mother, cradle Catholic; former naval aviation technician and life-long geek who wants to help others find out how much really cool stuff the Catholic Church has to share, especially in terms of pop culture and misconceptions. A millennial who graduated in '01, former raid tank, raid healer and raid leader for a fairly casual raiding guild in the second and third WoW expansions, a Star Trek fan and fell in love with the X-Men from her uncle's comics, and even with kids a low-level MMO and sandbox gamer.

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  • Suburbanbanshee

    More to the point, “Lucifer” is also one of the old Roman astronomical names for the planet Venus (as the Morning Star specifically – the Evening Star was “Vesper”). That’s why the Vulgate uses the name “Lucifer” at all — it’s the way St. Jerome chose to translate Isaiah 14:12, which is talking about the King of Babylon literally, but about Satan in the broader sense:

    “How are you fallen from heaven, o Morning Star…?”

    “Quomodo cecidisti de caelo, Lucifer…?”

    The pagan Roman poet Ovid talks in Metamorphoses about the son of Aurora (“Dawn”) being named Lucifer. The Greek name for this god was Phosphoros or Eosphoros/Heosphoros, son of Eos (also “Dawn” – and his brother the Evening Star was “Hesperos”). The Septuagint therefore translates this verse using the name “Heosphoros,” which is probably where Jerome got the idea.

    “Morning Star” is of course also one of the lesser-known titles of Jesus (Rev. 22:16 – “I am the root and stock of David, the bright and morning star”), as well as of the Virgin Mary and other saints (Sirach 50:6 and Rev. 2:28 and many other positive star uses, as well as forerunner saints being like the morning star to Jesus as Sun of Justice). But Jerome uses “stella matutina” (“early-morning-time star”) for these positive references, instead of “Lucifer”; although he apparently also uses “luciferum” in the poetic sense of “day” in Job 38:32. (A case where Jerome is working off a different reading of Bible verses than what we use, and thus sticking closer to the Septuagint.)

    Good post!

    • Only just now saw this– first, great to see you here, Banshee. 😀

      I actually just submitted a post that has a little bit more about the whole “Lucifer” name/designation. I don’t have it at hand, but apparently Jerome did a stealth-pun with helel “to lament”– I can’t “hear” it, but my grasp of Hebrew approaches negative levels. (A lot of what I think I know ain’t so.)

  • Howard

    Your title had me worried you had gone off the deep end, but this was a good post.

    • I couldn’t resist. 😀