Thursday, December 20, 2007

Papal Astronomers on the move

Jesuit astronomers operating in the papal residence of Castel Gandolfo,(photo) in the Roman countryside, will be moved to a different building, due to lack of space, reported Italian daily Corriere Della Sera.

The space in the observatory is needed by the Vatican to host diplomats and heads of state who visit Pope Benedict XVI.

The entire area of the observatory will be used, while the building's two domes will be museums, open only on request.

The observatory was built by Pope Leo XIII in 1891 to respond to claims that the church was opposed to scientific progress. It became famous, when in 1969 Pope Paul VI saw, with the help of powerful Vatican telescopes, the landing on the moon of American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin.

A second Vatican observatory already exists in the US state of Arizona, atop Mount Graham.


nickbris said...

This will be a great shame,more ammo for the Secularists.Visiting "freeloaders" & Junketeers can help out the local economy by staying at local Hotels.

Physiocrat said...

The decision of relocate the Vatican observatory was made about 25 years ago, the criteria for the choice being the exceptionally clear skies and freedom from light and dust pollution at Mount Graham, which had became a problem at Castelgandolfo and limited the usefulness of the observatory there.

The Mount Graham site is operated jointly by the Vatican astronomers and the University of Arizona. The Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope has a 1.8 metre mirror and was commissioned in 1993. The work done by the Jesuit astronomers is regarded in the scientific worlds as leading-edge.

Most major observatories have had to be moved to remote locations - Greenwich went first to Hurstmonceaux and then to the Canary Islands. The real shame is that most people can no longer see the stars due to excessive and inefficient street lighting which causes light-pollution. Only twenty-five years ago you could get a good view of the stars from the streets in the middle of Brighton, but not any more.

We should support the "dark skies" movement - where councils turn off the street lights occasionally so that people can see the stars.

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