Friday, July 5, 2013

Vatican Observatory

Pope Benedict XVI visiting the observatory
Image Vatican Observatory
The Vatican Observatory located behind St. Peter's Basilica in Rome has both a respectable history and a dignified location. Quoted from the web site:
In its historical roots and traditions the Vatican Observatory is one of the oldest astronomical institutes in the world. For the first foreshadowing of the Observatory can be traced to the constitution by Pope Gregory XIII (1502-1585) of a committee to study the scientific data and implications involved in the reform of the calendar which occurred in 1582. The committee included Father Christoph Clavius (1538-1612), a Jesuit mathematician from the Roman College, who expounded and explained the reform.

From that time and with some degree of continuity the Papacy has manifested an interest in and support for astronomical research. In fact, three early observatories were founded by the Papacy:
  • the Observatory of the Roman College (1774-1878),
  • the Observatory of the Capitol (1827-1870), and
  • the Specula Vaticana (1789-1821) in the Tower of the Winds within the Vatican.
These early traditions of the Observatory reached their climax in the mid-nineteenth century with the researches at the Roman College of the famous Jesuit, Father Angelo Secchi (1818-1878), the first to classify stars according to their spectra.

With these rich traditions as a basis and in order to counteract the longstanding accusations of a hostility of the Church towards science, Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903) in 1891 formally refounded the Specola Vaticana (Vatican Observatory) and located it on a hillside behind the dome of St. Peter's Basilica.
Vatican Observatory History
quoted text is formatted and slightly modified by me

Vatican Observatory

Questions, please!
The site has a very nicely written section for the curious - and not always so friendly - general public around the world, starting, how else, with the Galileo affair.

Here are the questions, visit the FAQ page to read the answers:
  • The Galileo Affair
  • For FAQs about Galileo, please visit our history of astronomy page.
  • Why is the Vatican interested in astronomy?
  • What is the mission statement for the Vatican Observatory, at least in part?
  • Is the Church looking for something in space, for example, a sign from above, for lack of a better way to put it?
  • It seems to have been the Jesuit Priests who have been most involved with the sciences for the Church. Is this a valid statement?
  • Do you report your findings directly to the Holy See? What is the pope's involvement in the Vatican Observatory?
  • Is one of the roles that the Vatican Observatory plays in astronomy that of verifying what other astronomers are telling the public in order to make sure what they are reporting to the public is actually true?
  • Does the pope have a personal interest in astronomy?
  • How did you personally become interested in astronomy, and what led you to become a Jesuit astronomer?
  • What is the Vatican Observatory's position on the use of Mount Graham, a precious mountain resource, for an astronomical observatory?
visit the FAQ page to read the answers!

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