When Galileo proclaimed that the earth orbits the sun, the Pope put him under house arrest for spreading an idea contrary to Catholic dogma. A later Pope tried to heal this rift between science and theology by directing the construction of an observatory within the Vatican.
Today, the Vatican Observatory is staffed by Jesuit astronomers. One of their missions is to search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.
They believe the words of a Catholic saint suggest that extraterrestrials can become our friends.
Who is this saint? And what did he say about peaceful coexistence between humans and extraterrestrials?
To discover the answers you are able to watch a Web Exclusive Video: Vatican Observatory.
The Vatican Observatory is an astronomical research and educational institution supported by the Holy See. Originally based in the Roman College of Rome, the Observatory is now headquartered in Castel Gandolfo, Italy and operates one of the largest telescope in the world at the Mt Graham International Observatory in the United States.
In 1910 Saint Pius X gave the Observatory a new and larger space at a villa built in the Vatican Gardens by Leo XIII. He appointed Jesuit Father Johannes Hagen as Director. However, at the beginning of the 1930s, it eventually became obvious that the urban growth of the Eternal City was brightening the sky to such an extent that the fainter stars could no longer be studied.
Thus it was then that Pope Pius XI provided a new location for the Observatory at the Papal Summer Residence at Castel Gandolfo in the Alban Hills some 35 kilometres southeast of Rome. It is here that the modern observatory, entrusted to the Jesuits, was refounded in the mid-1930s with the construction of three new telescopes, the installation of an astrophysical laboratory for spectro-chemical analysis, and the expansion of several important research programs on variable stars. With the installation of a Schmidt wide-angle telescope in 1957 research was extended to other topics such as new techniques for the classification of stars according to their spectra. This is still an active program at the Observatory.
With the continuously increasing population of Rome the skies above the Observatory again became too bright. For this reason in 1981, for the first time in its history, the Observatory founded a second research center, the Vatican Observatory Research Group (VORG), in Tucson, Arizona in the United States, one of the world’s largest and most modern centers for observational astronomy. The Observatory staff have offices at Steward Observatory of the University of Arizona where they also have access to all of the modern telescopes located in the Tucson area.
In 1993 the Observatory, in collaboration with Steward Observatory, completed the construction of the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT) on Mt. Graham, Arizona, probably the best astronomical site in the continental United States. This is the first optical-infrared telescope of the Mt Graham International Observatory (MGIO), a project which in the coming years will see the construction of some of the world’s most sophisticated and largest telescopes. The VATT has pioneered the new technology of creating large (2 meters in diameter), lightweight, stable mirrors in a rotating furnace. With the VATT in Tucson, the astronomers of the Observatory can finally continue long-term research programs, as done in the past in Castel Gandolfo.
My question is – what is the Vatican expecting and forgot to tell the rest of us?