Vatican Observatory

Vatican Observatory

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The Vatican Observatory (Specola Vaticana) is an astronomical research and educational institution supported by the Holy See
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

. Originally based in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, it now has headquarters and laboratory at the summer residence of the Pope
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 in Castel Gandolfo
Castel Gandolfo
Castel Gandolfo is a small Italian town or comune in Lazio that occupies a height overlooking Lake Albano about 15 miles south-east of Rome, on the Alban Hills. It is best known as the summer residence of the Pope. It is an Italian town with the population of 8834...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, and an observatory at the Mount Graham International Observatory
Mount Graham International Observatory
Mount Graham International Observatory is a division of Steward Observatory the research arm for the Department of Astronomy at The University of Arizona. It is located in southeast Arizona's Pinaleno Mountains near Mount Graham....

 in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

.

The Director of the Observatory is Fr. José Gabriel Funes
José Gabriel Funes
Fr. José Gabriel Funes, S.J. , an Argentine Jesuit priest and astronomer, is the current director of the Vatican Observatory.-Biography:...

, SJ
Society of Jesus
The Society of Jesus is a Catholic male religious order that follows the teachings of the Catholic Church. The members are called Jesuits, and are also known colloquially as "God's Army" and as "The Company," these being references to founder Ignatius of Loyola's military background and a...

. Many distinguished scholars have worked at the Observatory. In 2008, the Templeton Prize
Templeton Prize
The Templeton Prize is an annual award presented by the Templeton Foundation. Established in 1972, it is awarded to a living person who, in the estimation of the judges, "has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life's spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical...

 was awarded to cosmologist
Cosmology
Cosmology is the discipline that deals with the nature of the Universe as a whole. Cosmologists seek to understand the origin, evolution, structure, and ultimate fate of the Universe at large, as well as the natural laws that keep it in order...

 Fr. Michał Heller, a Vatican Observatory Adjunct Scholar. In 2010, the George Van Biesbroeck Prize
George Van Biesbroeck Prize
The George Van Biesbroeck Prize is an award for long-term achievements in the field of astronomy. According to the American Astronomical Society awards website; "The Van Biesbroeck prize is normally awarded every two years and honors a living individual for long-term extraordinary or unselfish...

 was awarded to former observatory director Fr. George Coyne
George Coyne
George V. Coyne, S.J. is a Jesuit priest, astronomer, and former director of the Vatican Observatory and head of the observatory’s research group which is based at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona.-Scientific education:...

, SJ.

History


The Church has had long-standing interests in astronomy, due to the astronomical basis of the calendar by which holy days and Easter
Easter
Easter is the central feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Day or Easter Sunday...

 are determined. For instance, the Gregorian Calendar
Gregorian calendar
The Gregorian calendar, also known as the Western calendar, or Christian calendar, is the internationally accepted civil calendar. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom the calendar was named, by a decree signed on 24 February 1582, a papal bull known by its opening words Inter...

, promulgated in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII, was developed by the Jesuit mathematician Christoph Clavius at the Collegio Romano
Pontifical Gregorian University
The Pontifical Gregorian University is a pontifical university located in Rome, Italy.Heir of the Roman College founded by Saint Ignatius of Loyola over 460 years ago, the Gregorian University was the first university founded by the Jesuits...

 from astronomical data.

In the 18th century, the Papacy actively supported astronomy, establishing the Observatory of the Roman College in 1774. In 1789-1787, the Specola Vaticana in the Tower of the Winds within the Vatican was established under the direction of Msgr. Filippo Luigi Gilii (1756-1821). When Msgr. Gilii died, the Specola was closed down, as inconvenient to students in the city, and with the dome of St. Peter's
St. Peter's Basilica
The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter , officially known in Italian as ' and commonly known as Saint Peter's Basilica, is a Late Renaissance church located within the Vatican City. Saint Peter's Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world...

 obstructing its view. Its instruments were transferred to the College Observatory. A third facility, the Observatory of the Capitol, was operated from 1827 to 1870.

Father Angelo Secchi
Angelo Secchi
-External links:...

 SJ relocated the College Observatory to the top of Sant'Ignazio di Loyola a Campo Marzio
Sant'Ignazio
The Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola at Campus Martius is Roman Catholic titular church dedicated to Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, located in Rome, Italy...

 (Church of St. Ignatius in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

). However, when Father Secchi died in 1878, there was grave tension between the Holy See and the government of Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

. The Observatory was renamed Regio Osservatorio al Collegio Romano ("Royal Observatory at the Roman College"), and remained in operation as such till 1923.

It was reopened in the 1930s, by which time the smoke and sky-glow of the city made it impossible to conduct useful observations in Rome. The Observatory relocated to Castel Gandolfo, which is 25 kilometres (15.5 mi) southeast of Rome. By 1961, the same problems now existed at Castel Gandolfo. The Observatory then established the Vatican Observatory Research Group, with offices at the Steward Observatory
Steward Observatory
The University of Arizona's Steward Observatorys main office is located on the University's campus and is closely tied to the Department of Astronomy. Established in 1916 by its first director, Andrew Ellicott Douglass, and a $60,000 bequest made by Lavinia Steward in memory of her late husband...

 of the University of Arizona
University of Arizona
The University of Arizona is a land-grant and space-grant public institution of higher education and research located in Tucson, Arizona, United States. The University of Arizona was the first university in the state of Arizona, founded in 1885...

 in Tucson, Arizona
Arizona
Arizona ; is a state located in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the western United States and the mountain west. The capital and largest city is Phoenix...

.

In 1993, VORG completed the 1.8 metres (70.9 in) Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope
Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope
The Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, aka the VATT, is a 1.8 meter Gregorian telescope observing in the optical and infrared. It is part of the Mount Graham International Observatory. It is situated on Mount Graham in southeast Arizona, and it achieved 'first light', the first starlight to...

, which is at Mount Graham
Mount Graham
Mount Graham is a mountain in southeastern Arizona in the United States, in the Coronado National Forest. It is the highest mountain in the Pinaleño Mountains. As the name "Mount Graham" is often used by locals to refer to the entire mountain range, the peak itself is frequently referred to as...

 near Safford, Arizona
Safford, Arizona
- History :Safford was founded by Joshua Eaton Bailey, Hiram Kennedy and Edward Tuttle, who came from Gila Bend, in southwestern Arizona. They left Gila Bend in the winter of 1873-74; their work on canals and dams having been destroyed by high water the previous summer...

.

The Observatory's headquarters remained in Italy at Castel Gandolfo. In early 2008, the Vatican announced that as part of a general reconstruction of the Papal residence, the Observatory would be relocated to a former convent a mile away from the castle, while its former space would be used to provide more room for the reception of diplomatic visitors. There was some commentary that the Observatory was being shut down or cut back, but in fact the Observatory staff welcomed the move . The old quarters in the castle were cramped and very poorly laid out for the Observatory's use. The research activities of VORG in Arizona continue unaffected.

See also

  • Catholic Church and science#Vatican Observatory
  • Archaeoastronomy
    Archaeoastronomy
    Archaeoastronomy is the study of how people in the past "have understood the phenomena in the sky how they used phenomena in the sky and what role the sky played in their cultures." Clive Ruggles argues it is misleading to consider archaeoastronomy to be the study of ancient astronomy, as modern...

  • Guy Consolmagno
    Guy Consolmagno
    Brother Guy J. Consolmagno, SJ , is an American research astronomer and planetary scientist at the Vatican Observatory.-Life:...

  • George Coyne
    George Coyne
    George V. Coyne, S.J. is a Jesuit priest, astronomer, and former director of the Vatican Observatory and head of the observatory’s research group which is based at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona.-Scientific education:...

  • José Gabriel Funes
    José Gabriel Funes
    Fr. José Gabriel Funes, S.J. , an Argentine Jesuit priest and astronomer, is the current director of the Vatican Observatory.-Biography:...

  • Michał Heller
  • Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action
    Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action
    Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action is a five volume set that represents more than a decade of scientific-theological conferences sponsored by the Vatican Observatory and the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences.-Volumes:****...


External links