Cosmic Space

Jupiter and Saturn pair up to make a Christmas Star

Are you ready for a remake of the Christmas Star story? Depending on how much stock you put in historical hypotheses, this year’s solstice on Dec. 21 could bring a replay of the phenomenon that the Three Kings saw in the Gospel of Matthew.

That’s when Jupiter and Saturn can be seen incredibly close together in the night sky. If the skies are clear, the two planets will be hard to miss in southwest skies just after sunset, as seen from mid-northern latitudes. Jupiter will sparkle brighter, and Saturn will be shining only a tenth of a degree to the upper right. With a small telescope, you might be able to see both planets and their moons in a single field of view.

“Some astronomers suggest the pair will look like an elongated star, and others say the two planets will form a double planet,” NASA says in a blog posting about the Dec. 21 conjunction. “To know for sure, we’ll just have to look and see. Either way, take advantage of this opportunity because Jupiter and Saturn won’t appear this close in the sky until 2080!”


Space station veterans give pope his own flight suit

Astronaut and pope
Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli presents Pope Francis with a flight suit. (CNS Photo / Vatican Media)

Pope Francis now has the right kind of suit for experiencing heaven in this world.

During a visit to the Vatican, crew members from the International Space Station’s Expedition 53 gave the pope his very own blue flight suit.

There’s even a short white cape to go with it, embellished with embroidered wings.

But in a nod to the secular world, the flight suit’s name tag doesn’t read “Francis” or “Pontifex.” Instead, the tag uses the pontiff’s birth name, Jorge M. Bergoglio. And the sleeve sports the flag of Francis’ native Argentina rather than Vatican City’s crossed-keys banner.

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Archaeologists dissect the ‘Tomb of Christ’

Work in the Edicule
Workers move a marble slab to expose deeper layers in the Edicule within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is revered as the site of Jesus’ tomb. (National Geographic via YouTube)

After more than 15 years of study, experts are laying out the evidence revealing how far back the history goes for the room-sized shrine in Jerusalem that’s revered as Jesus’ tomb.

Spoiler alert: There’s no “Jesus Was Here” graffiti on the walls.

Fortunately, that wasn’t the point of the research. Instead, archaeologists were taking advantage of a conservation effort at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, one of Christianity’s holiest sites, to look inside the shrine known as the Edicule (which is Latin for “little house”).

The results of their studies were reported today by National Geographic, which chronicled the project for a TV documentary titled “Secrets of Christ’s Tomb.”

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Dan Brown’s latest thriller: Will AI replace God?

Dan Brown
Dan Brown’s “Origin” weaves scientific themes into a thriller set in Spain. (AuthorDanBrown via YouTube)

Imagine an age when artificial intelligence takes the sum of human experience and turns it into a “global consciousness” that becomes a replacement for God.

That scenario could serve as the plot for a science-fiction novel, but novelist Dan Brown suggests that it’s a real-life possibility, thanks to anticipated advances in technology.

“Over the next decade our species will become enormously interconnected at a level we are not used to, and we will start to find our spiritual experiences through our interconnections with each other,” the AFP news agency quoted Brown as sayingtoday at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany. “Our need for the exterior God that sits up there and judges us … will diminish and eventually disappear.”

God’s place would be taken by “some form of global consciousness that we perceive and that becomes our divine,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

Brown’s talk focused on his latest thriller, “Origin,” which follows a plot line that’s almost as far out there.

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