What does a scientist’s work represent: objectivity, intuition or another all-too-human foible? Both a Jesuit brother and a planetary scientist, Br. Guy Consolmagno, the director of the Vatican Observatory, explores the connections between meteorites, asteroids, and the evolution of small solar system bodies, while purposefully reflects on the human dimension of his scientific work. His research and Vatican affiliation have sent him around the world several times to dozens of countries and every continent (including a meteorite hunting expedition to Antarctica). In this talk, he will share some of those adventures, and reflect on the larger meaning of our common experience as scientists… not only what we do, but why we do it.
The event will begin with the talk by Br Consolmagno followed by an extended Q/A session with the audience. Light refreshment will be provided after the program.
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The roots of the Vatican Observatory, one of the oldest astronomical institutions in the world, go back to the Gregorian Reform of the Calendar in 1582, and it has been part of an extensive history of Church support for astronomy (Galileo to the contrary!). Its very existence demonstrates that there is no inherent conflict between religion and science.
Why did we go to the Moon? Why does the Vatican support an astronomical observatory? These questions mask a deeper question: why do individuals choose to spend their lives in pursuit of pure knowledge? The motivation behind our choices, both as individuals and as a society, controls the sorts of science that gets done. It determines the kinds of answers that are found to be satisfying. And ultimately, it affects the way in which we think of ourselves.
On February 15 2013 an asteroid exploded in the sky over the city of Chelyabinsk, in the the southern Ural region of Russia. The shock wave blew out windows all over the city, injuring over 1600 people, and damaged several buildings.
This event could well be the tipping point in public awareness about asteroids; a year after the event, the B612 Foundation and hundreds of scientists, engineers, entertainers, astronauts, astronomers, politicians, citizen activists and others got involved in what has turned into the global AsteroidDay campaign.
Each year, on the anniversary of the Tunguska Impact, events are held around the world to raise awareness of asteroids: their potential for space-side exploitation, planet-side destruction, and impact mitigation.
See also: #AsteroidDay