The Vatican Observatory Foundation works to ensure the Church’s presence in the world of science. By supporting the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope and educational initiatives, friends and benefactors participate in one of the most interesting ventures you can imagine: front-line astronomical research and the excitement of searching for the religious implications of this research.
Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope
The Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope in Arizona is a multi-million dollar astronomical research complex paid for by private donations, and is the responsibility of the Vatican Observatory Foundation. It consists of two parts: the Alice P. Lennon Telescope and the Thomas J. Bannan Astrophysics Facility. The Vatican Observatory Research Group (VORG) operates the telescope in southeastern Arizona where sky conditions are among the best in the world and certainly the Continental United States.
The Vatican Observatory is one of the oldest active astronomical observatories in the world, with its roots going back to 1582 and the reform of the Julian calendar. Today there are 15 Jesuits from many different countries on the staff of the Observatory, who study the universe through solid, scientific methods. They stand at the forefront of scientific research covering a broad range of topics, from an examination of the tiniest specs of interplanetary dust to the origins and structure of the universe.
Education and Outreach
International Public Engagement: Staff members give dozens of presentations each year.
Vatican Observatory Summer Schools: Biennial program at Castel Gandolfo for young scientists from around the world.
High School Astronomy Studies Program: Students use the VATT’s remote observing capability, and connect with scientists through the internet.
Online Resources: The Catholic Astronomer blog allows members to discuss astronomy with professionals who believe that Faith and Science do not conflict.
Ambassador Program: Currently under development
Faith and Science
We’ve created a digital archive with hundreds of articles, videos, and audio files on the topic of Faith and Science, for the use of Catholic educators and educated Catholics. This archive was produced and is maintained by members of the Vatican Observatory with the support of the Vatican Observatory Foundation.
[Visit Faith and Science Website]
The Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope
The Eastern Arizona College’s Discovery Park Campus is the official tour agent for the Mount Graham International Observatory. Public tours are conducted by advance reservation, beginning about mid-May through October, weather permitting.
The tour features a trip up scenic Mount Graham, focusing on the mountain’s rich geology, history, and diversity of life; a lunch near the summit of the mountain; and a guided tour of the observatory facility.
The Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope in Arizona is a multi-million dollar astronomical research complex paid for by private donations. It consists of two parts: the Alice P. Lennon Telescope and the Thomas J. Bannan Astrophysics Facility. The telescope’s 1.8-meter (72 inch), f/l.0 mirror was fabricated at the Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory using revolutionary spin-casting and polishing technologies that are now making giant telescopes possible at considerable cost savings. The Vatican Observatory Research Group (VORG) operates the telescope in southeastern Arizona where sky conditions are among the best in the world and certainly the Continental United States.
The Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT) truly lives up to its name. Its heart is a 1.8-m f/1.0 honeycombed construction, borosilicate primary mirror. This was manufactured at the University of Arizona Mirror Laboratory, and it pioneered both the spin-casting techniques and the stressed-lap polishing techniques of that Laboratory which are being used for telescope mirrors up to 8.4-m in diameter. The primary mirror is so deeply-dished that the focus of the telescope is only as far above the mirror as the mirror is wide, thus allowing a structure that is about three times as compact as the previous generation of telescope designs.
The 0.38-m f/0.9 Zerodur concave secondary mirror was manufacted by the Space Optics Research Laboratory (Chelmsford, MA). Its mount allows control of its focus and positioning to 0.1 microns, an accuracy needed for such a fast optical system.
The telescope mount is of altitude-azimuth design and was manufactured by L&F Industries (Huntington Park, CA). It features direct drive motors on the two axes, leading to a very compact and rigid mount. The compactness allows a telescope that is very stable in a high wind and easily repositioned on the sky. It also means that a small dome can be used and so the distortions in an image produced by air surrounding a telescope can be minimized.
The building in which the telescope is housed is designed to isolate thermally the ambient temperature in the dome from the heated observing room and living quarters. This isolation is achieved by using the section between the dome and the main facility as a thermal barrier and by exhausting air from this section and from the dome out from the north and mainly downwind side of the building.
Tours of Mount Graham International Observatory, including the VATT, are run on Saturdays from mid-May to mid-October (weather-permitting) from Discovery Park in Safford, AZ.
Unfortunately, the Vatican Observatory does not have the resources to provide tours of its headquarters and astronomical facilities in Castel Gandolfo and Albano outside Rome, Italy. However, tours of the Papal Summer Villa Gardens and the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo where the Vatican Observatory headquarters have been since 1935 are offered through the Vatican Museums.
Note: tours do not include visits to any of the observatory facilities though the exteriors of some telescope domes are visible during the tours.
To know more please visit the Pontifical Villas at Castel Gandolfo section of the Vatican Museums website. [Link]
The Vatican Observatory is one of the oldest active astronomical observatories in the world, with its roots going back to 1582 and the reform of the Julian calendar.
Today there are 15 Jesuits from many different countries on the staff of the Observatory, who study the universe through solid, scientific methods. They stand at the forefront of scientific research covering a broad range of topics, from an examination of the tiniest specs of interplanetary dust to the origins and structure of the universe. The Jesuit astronomers of the Vatican Observatory have contributed to discoveries in many fields from the origins of our solar system to the structure of galaxies. Scientists throughout the world recognize their work in planetary sciences, cosmology and philosophy, and stellar and extragalactic astronomy.
The Observatory has its headquarters in the gardens of the Papal Summer Residence in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, and a research center, the Vatican Observatory Research Group, in Tucson, Arizona, one of the most important centers in the world for observational astronomy. Most of the observational research today takes place at the Observatory’s telescope on Mt. Graham in Arizona. Besides several older telescopes the headquarters outside Rome house a library with a number of historically important scientific works, a collection of antique astronomical instruments, one of the most important meteorite collections in the world and a recently renovated state of the art meteorite laboratory.
Education and Outreach
Staff meet with and speak to groups when their research time allows. They make presentations to elementary school students, amateur astronomy groups, college physics classes and even at commencements.
The staff of the Vatican Observatory spend a great deal of their time on research projects with colleagues around the world. Also during each year they travel internationally attending conferences and delivering presentations to over 5,000 people in gatherings that include their esteemed colleagues or local parish groups and school children.
VOSS: Vatican Observatory Summer Schools
Since 1986, the Vatican Observatory has hosted biennial Summer Schools at Castel Gandolfo to give young scientists from around the world an opportunity to learn with the world’s leading experts in astronomy. Alumni from the schools continue to lead in many areas of astronomical research. In fact, Fr. Jose’ Funes, Director of the Vatican Observatory, is an example of where an alumnus finds himself today.
Vatican Observatory Summer School (VOSS) 2018 will train the next generation of researchers on the marvels of big data, time domain astrophysics, and variability surveys. We are building an exciting programme that links variable stars with photometric and spectroscopic surveys, and then gives an overview concerning the impact that stellar astrophysics has on current astrophysical and cosmological open problems. In addition, we will address the use of variable stars as distance indicators, as tracers of stellar populations in galaxies, as probes of stellar evolution, and as laboratories for fundamental physics.
The Catholic Astronomer blog allows members of the Sacred Space Giving program to share information and discuss astronomy with a group of professionals who believe that Faith and Science do not conflict. In the image, Brother Guy shows astronomer and blog contributor, Dr. Brenda Frye, and her husband part of the meteorite collection at the Drake Building during the Annual Awards Dinner.
High School Astronomy Studies Program
One of our newest educational outreach programs stems directly from the remote observing capability of the VATT. This program is offering to educational institutions, even at the high school level, and the public, through amateur astronomy clubs, the ability to connect with Vatican Observatory scientists and their colleagues through the internet allowing them to “eavesdrop” on their remote observational sessions while the scientists are using the VATT. They will also be able to communicate with the researchers and follow over time their current research projects and eventually, in some cases, program their own projects, though this will probably only be possible at the graduate level once the telescope is fully automated.
Faith and Science
Visit our Digital archive of articles, videos, and audio files on the topic of Faith and Science, for the use of Catholic educators and educated Catholics, produced by members of the Vatican Observatory with the support of the Vatican Observatory Foundation.