By Tom Horn & Cris Putnam
“L.U.C.I.F.E.R., which stands for “Large Binocular Telescope Near-infrared Utility with Camera and Integral Field Unit for Extragalactic Research,” is a chilled instrument attached to a telescope in Arizona. And yes, it’s named for the Devil, whose name itself means “morning star” [and which] happens to be right next to the Vatican Observatory on Mt. Graham in Tucson.”— Rebecca Boyle, Popular Science Magazine
Following the release of our 2012 best-seller Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope Is Here, we were inundated with invitations from around the world to be interviewed on radio, television, and in print media. These included segments in The History Channel’s “Countdown to Apocalypse,” which premiered November 9, 2012; a special feature on Canada’s largest Christian channel VisionTV titled “I Prophesy: The Apocalypse Series” (complete with re-enactments) that aired nationwide on Tuesday, November 20, 2012; invitations to Rome to discuss with Italian media our findings on René Thibaut, a Belgian Jesuit whose meticulous analysis of the Prophecy of the Popes predicted the arrival of Petrus Romanus in this era; a “best of” interview with George Noory on Coast to Coast AM, and dozens more.
But it was two shows in particular, which we did on The Omega Man Radio Program with popular author and radio man Steve Quayle that prompted our visit to Mt. Graham in southeastern Arizona to start our investigation. The first show with Steve rocketed Omega Man to the #1 Blog Talk Radio Show in the world for over a week. It focused on the ancient Prophecy of the Popes and the fact that the pontiff following Benedict XVI will be the final one on this mysterious list of popes, a prophecy that was concealed inside the secret vaults of the Vatican for hundreds of years and which many believe points to the arrival of the False Prophet of end-times infamy. (Note that at the start of this investigation, Benedict XVI remains pope and whoever is scheduled to follow him in the role of Petrus Romanus is still an open question, but whoever it turns out to be, they are the final pope according to the medieval catholic prophecy).
In the second Omega Man show, which aired Wednesday, April 4, 2012, we broached the subject of a “Vatican ET” connection. That program sent Omega Man into the stratosphere for an unprecedented one-month position as the top BT radio show on the planet, illustrating to these authors that the world is more than casually interested not only in the final pope, but in the connection between Rome and their work on extraterrestrial intelligence, astrobiology, and the intriguing connection between those issues and Petrus Romanus.
Thus on a mild morning in September, 2012, we together with our cameraman—Joe Ardis, a.k.a. the Wild Man of the Ozarks—departed the small desert town of Safford, Arizona (which normally has a warm high desert climate, much hotter than most places in eastern Arizona due to its relatively low elevation of 2,953 feet) [i] en route to the Mt. Graham Observatory Base Camp, 80 miles from Tucson and a few miles south of Safford on State Route 366. Located near the northern limit of the Chiricahua Apache and Western Apache territories, Dził Nchaa Si An, as it is known in the Western Apache language, is one of the four holiest mountains in America for the Apache, and considered sacred to the all of the region’s Native peoples. (The San Carlos Apache Tribe had originally joined environmentalists who sought, among other things, to protect the Sacred Grounds and American Red Squirrel, in filing dozens of lawsuits before a federal appeals court to stop the construction of the observatories on Mt Graham, but the project ultimately prevailed after an act by the United States Congress allowed it).
We had been warned by our guide that the trek up the steep mountainside from 2,953 feet to over 10,700 was precarious, coupled with more hairpin turns, switchbacks and narrow segments of roadway overlooking deep canyon walls than we might have imagined, and, to top it off, there would be no guardrails along the harrowing winding path. We were scheduled to arrive at the Mount Graham International Observatory a couple hours after departure. We would meet with astronomers and engineers at the Large Binocular Telescope—currently one of the world’s most advanced optical telescopes—where, among other things, the new LUCIFER device is attached between its gigantic twin mirrors (either of which would be the largest optical telescope in continental North America). We were later told by the LBT systems engineer who spent significant time with us that day that another instrument—LUCIFER-II—is scheduled to arrive at the observatory anytime now and will complete the two multi-object and longslit infrared spectrograph imagers they need for studying the heavens in search of, among other things, exo-planets that may host intelligent life. We would also visit the Heinrich Hertz Submillimeter Telescope that day, which sets between the LBT and the real target of our quest—the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope and the Jesuits who work there.
Before leaving base camp, Dramamine for motion sickness was suggested ahead of departure, and the two men in our team that declined that offer would soon wished they hadn’t, as once we were underway, it was non-stop reeling back and forth, bouncing up and down as the driver—who seemed a little too much to enjoy being in one gear faster than he should have been given the circumstances—occasionally looked at us in the rearview mirror and smiled. As we went from Sonoran Desert scrub at the mountain’s floor to alpine spruce-fir forest closer to the summit, our guide who set in the opposite front seat from the driver occasionally pointed to something off to one side, describing how more life zones and vegetative varieties existed here than on any other North American mountain, including almost two dozen plants, animals and insects that are not found anywhere else. Of course this included the celebrity of Mount Graham—the endangered Red Squirrel—which Arizona has already spent at least 1.25 million dollars protecting. But it was hard to appreciate these facts while growing queasy and wondering how far down the canyon wall we would roll if at any moment the driver lost control and barreled off the side. Thankfully, just when we were starting to think this had been a bad idea, we stopped approximately two-thirds way up the mountain at the Columbine Ranger Station, a USDA Forest Service Administrative Complex that had been built Circa 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, a public work relief program that was part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” and that had provided unskilled manual labor jobs for people to relieve unemployment during the Great Depression.
We had packed a sack lunch and used the Ranger Station as a place to rest a while, eat, and let our bellies recover a bit from the roller-coaster ride. While munching on a sandwich and looking at the aging black and white pictures that hung on the walls here and there of the Depression-Era men who had built the modest encampment, we met a volunteer, an interesting old chap who told us how he had been coming there for many years to keep a fire in the fireplace and to greet hikers that wandered into the park. When we told him where we were going, he got quiet. When we added that our plan was to speak with the Jesuits at VATT in the restricted area further up the mountain, he lost interest in the conversation and started stirring his fire again.
Minutes later, lunch consumed and stomachs still uneasy, we were back in our vehicle. From this point forward, the road, if we can call it that, became little more than a glorified goat trail until finally, about a mile from our destination, we arrived at a security gate with warnings of “No Trespassing” in several languages. The guide had a key to the gate. She unlocked then relocked it behind us after we drove through the opening. At that point, the driver pulled a radio out, which we had not noticed before, and radioed somebody that we were heading up the incline. Evidently this was necessary because from this point forward the steep gravel lane was barely wide enough for one vehicle at a time, and you didn’t want to risk running up against another vehicle that might be coming down from the Observatories. No one answered the call, so he radioed again, then a third time, with still no response. The silence must have meant the road was clear, as just like that he slipped the vehicle into low gear and we began our final 30-minute crawl up the mountainside.
“And one more thing,” the guide warned as we jerked over the rocky track, tires spinning against the loose gravel and dirt. “When we get to the restricted area you’ll see brightly colored cables roping off most of the land around the buildings. Do not… I repeat, do not step over those lines or you will be arrested immediately and hauled off to jail.” She wasn’t smiling, and when we got to the observatories, we saw the security lines and enforcement vehicles, just as she had described them.
SEARCHING FOR LUCIFER FROM ATOP THE HOLY MOUNTAIN
It was approximately 11: AM (PST) as we rounded the final bend and saw just ahead the towering edifices housing the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT), an optical telescope for astronomy and currently one of the world’s most advanced systems. Near it was the Submillimeter Telescope (SMT) or as it is also known, the Heinrich Hertz Submillimeter Telescope building, a “state-of-the-art single-dish radio telescope for observations in the sub-millimeter wavelength range… the most accurate radio telescope ever built.” [ii] And last but not least about a block away from them we observed our primary reason for trudging to the top of this peak—the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope or VATT.
Of course we had read the official story from the Vatican Observatory Website before making the trip, how VATT truly lives up to its name:
“Its heart is a 1.8-m f/1.0 honeycombed construction, borosilicate primary mirror. This was manufactured at the University of Arizona Mirror Laboratory, and it pioneered both the spin-casting techniques and the stressed-lap polishing techniques of that Laboratory which are being used for telescope mirrors up to 8.4-m in diameter. The primary mirror is so deeply-dished that the focus of the telescope is only as far above the mirror as the mirror is wide, thus allowing a structure that is about three times as compact as the previous generation of telescope designs.” [iii]
Such technical language aside, the “Observers” who are approved to operate VATT and what they are using it for these days is what would take us through the looking glass. This was confirmed minutes later by the Jesuit Father on duty that day (whom we got on film) who told us that among the most important research occurring with the site’s Vatican astronomers is the quest to pinpoint certain extrasolar planets and advanced alien intelligence. He then proceeded (as did our guide) to show us all around the observatory—from the personal quarters of the Church’s astronomers—where they ate, slept, relaxed, studied—to the control rooms, computer screens and systems, and even the telescope itself. While we were given complete and unrestricted opportunity to question how the devices are used and what distinctives set each of the telescopes on Mt. Graham apart, we had not expected the ease with which the astronomers and technicians would also speak of UFOs! This was especially true when we walked up the gravel road from VATT to the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT), where we spent most of the day with a systems engineer who not only took us to all seven levels of that mighty machine—pointing out the LUCIFER device and what it is used for (which he lovingly referred to as “Lucy” several times and elsewhere as “Lucifer”) as well as every other aspect of the telescope we tried to wrap our minds around—but who also stunned us as we sat in the control room, listening to him and the astronomers speak so casually of the redundancy with which UFOs are captured on screens darting through the heavens. Our friendly engineer didn’t blink an eye, nor did any of the other scientists in the room, and we were shocked at this, how ordinary it seemed to be.
Authors Tom Horn and Cris Putnam in front of VATT.
|Standing on the platform beneath VATT.|
|Walking from VATT to the Large Binocular Telescope.|
|LBT Systems Engineer in control room with Tom, Cris, and an astronomer (out of frame on right) describing how often “UFOs” are captured during observations.|
But as much as the commonality of UFO sightings on Mt. Graham’s telescopes intrigued, this was not the primary reason for our being there. We had come with deeper questions concerning high-level Vatican astronomers and what they had been leaking to, and discussing with, media in recent years. Captivating comments from Jesuit priests like Guy Consolmagno—a leading astronomer who often turns up in media as a spokesman for the Vatican who has worked at NASA and taught at Harvard and MIT and who currently splits his time between the Vatican Observatory and laboratory (Specola Vaticana) headquartered at the summer residence of the Pope in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, and Mt. Graham in Arizona. Over the last few years, he has focused so much of his time and effort in an attempt to reconcile science and religion in public forums specifically as it relates to the subject of extraterrestrial life and its potential impact on the future of faith that we decided to contact him. He agreed to be interviewed from Rome, and over the numerous exchanges that followed he told us some things that seemed beyond the scope. He even sent us a copy of a private pdf, a literal goldmine of what he and the Vatican are considering regarding the ramifications of astrobiology and specifically the discovery of advanced extraterrestrials… in which he admits how contemporary societies will soon “look to The Aliens to be the Saviours of humankind.”
Coming up next: What the Vatican and it’s theologians are preparing for…