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September 17th, 2009

Another pleasant day...

(Edited, to include the better link, and to unlock now that the news is public.)

A beautiful day in London… cool, dancing clouds around the sky (OK, so it has just gone completely overcast), a taste of fall in the air. I am looking forward to seeing some old friends (and doing some amateur astronomy) up in Oxford, getting to bookstores with books in English, a couple of fun talks on the schedule… one tonight, one next week. And a very busy month ahead of me, all of which I am looking forward to very much.

I expected that with all this coming my way I would probably wake up an hour before I needed to; instead, I rolled over this morning at 6:20 and realized with a start that my ride to the airport was leaving in ten minutes. Mostly I was packed; I threw everything else I could see into my bag and raced downstairs. Made my ride, and the flight to Gatwick was uneventful. I am writing this on the train to London and the Jesuit house in Swiss Cottage.

Oh, and yesterday, I got to show off my new meteorite laboratory to the Pope, who happened to drop by and sign the visitor’s book. (Yes, we knew he was coming. The place has never been so clean. Nor will it be again.)

He liked the chunk of Nakhla that he got to hold (for those who don’t know their meteorites, it’s a piece of Mars; our piece is 152 g. Quite nice.), was impressed at the heft of Canyon Diablo and how Knyahinya looked through a petrographic microscope under crossed Nichols. But mostly -- I guessed right -- he got the biggest smile out of looking through our sample microscope at little pieces of a howardite called Mässing, named for the small town in Germany where it was seen to fall and collected in 1803, right near his home town.

Our first papal visitor in Castel Gandolfo was Pius XI, who by coincidence also came to see us on a September 16th, but 75 years earlier, in 1934.

See: http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0904135.htm

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