History of the Vatican astronomical Observatory in Castelgandolfo

Vatican Observatory

The Astronomical Observatory, or the Vatican Observatory, is a scientific research institute directly dependent on the Holy See; belongs to the Governorate of the State of the Vatican City. The Vatican Observatory can be considered one of the oldest astronomical observatories in the world. Its origin dates back to the fact of the second half of the sixteenth century, when Pope Gregory XIII erected the Tower of the Winds in the Vatican in 1578, and the Jesuit astronomers and mathematicians of the Roman College were invited to prepare then promulgated the reform of the calendar in 1582. Since then, with a substantial continuity, the Holy See has not stopped showing interest and giving its support to astronomical research. This ancient tradition reached its apogee in the 20th century with the research carried out at the Roman College by the famous Jesuit astronomer P. Angelo Secchi, who first classified the stars according to their spectrums. It was based on this long and rich tradition of Leo XIII, to counteract the persistent accusations made against the Church is contrary to scientific progress, with the mysticam motu proprio Ut of March 14, 1891 founded the observatory on the Vatican Hill, behind the Basilica of San Pedro. With the director and staff provided by different religious orders such as Barnabiti, Oratorians, Augustinians, Jesuits, the Observatory worked in the Vatican for just over 40 years, mainly related to the application, together with other observers, the largest international program of the Letter of Heaven Photo. In 1910, St. Pius X gave Specola more spacious spaces, assigning him the house that Leo XIII had built in the Vatican gardens and naming the director Father G. Hagen, sj. But in the early 1930s, the increase in electric lights that had accompanied the urban growth of the Eternal City had made Rome’s sky so bright that it was impossible for astronomers to study the weakest stars. Pius XI arranged for the Specola to move to his summer residence at Castelgandolfo, in the hills of Albani, about 35 km south of Rome. In this environment so rich in history, around 1935 it was refounded and the Jesuits were entrusted with a modern observatory equipped with three new telescopes and an astrophysical laboratory for spectroscopic analysis. Among the various study programs in which the new institution begins, special research on variable stars should be mentioned. In 1957, then, with the installation of a large Schmidt-type field telescope and the addition of a modern computer center, its search can be expanded to new fields such as the development of new techniques for the classification of stars on the base of its specters: this is still a research on the Specola. A Castelgandolfo a valuable library of about 22,000 volumes, It possesses a large collection of ancient books, including works by Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Kepler, Brahe, Clavius, cubes; It also hosts an important collection of meteorites, precious for the information they can give us about the origins of the solar system. The results of the research are published in international journals. The Annual Report is sent to some 400 institutions around the world. Every two years or so, international meetings are organized in which about twenty scientists are invited to discuss topics of study of the Observatory and whose acts are published in a special volume. Also in Castelgandolfo, in 1986 a one-month astronomy summer school was organized for 25 students from different parts of the world, in which eminent scholars have carried out programs on particular topics. The initiative, repeated in 1988, now has a term of two years. In addition, in Castelgandolfo, for more or less long periods, scientists who try to collaborate in the investigation of our astronomers stay.


History of the Vatican astronomical Observatory in Tucson

Vatican Observatory

Due to the constant expansion of the city of Rome and its surroundings, the Castelgandolfo sky became so bright that it forced the astronomers once again to go elsewhere for their observations. Therefore, in 1981, for the first time in its history, the Specola founded a second research center, the “Research Group of the Vatican Observatory” (VORG), in Tucson, Arizona. Vatican astronomers have their offices at the Steward Observatory of the University of Arizona and, based on the absolute parity of their observation proposals, can access all the modern telescopes located in the area. In 1993, the Observatory, in collaboration with the Steward Observatory, completed the construction of the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT), placing it on Mount Graham (Arizona), the best astronomical site on the North American continent. VATT is the first infrared optical telescope of the Monte Graham International Observatory: a project that will be completed in the coming years with the construction of one of the largest and most sophisticated telescopes in the world. The primary mirror of VATT, approximately 2 meters in diameter, is the first mirror that is built with the new rotary kiln technique. With the availability of their own telescope, Observatory astronomers will eventually develop in Tucson, as they have done in recent years at Castelgandolfo, continuing long-term research programs. Thus, from its two centers, Castelgandolfo and Tucson, the Vatican Observatory will continue its studies, which include among other cosmological models, spectral classification of the peculiar stars, distribution stars of rich and poor in metals, binary stars and the exchange of matter, Present material in the dark clouds where new stars are formed, dust that surrounds young stars, the history of science. The Observatory carries out these programs in collaboration with many astronomical institutes in other countries, such as Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Finland, Italy, Lithuania, South Africa and the USA, and is a member of the International Astronomical Union (UAI). ) and the International Center for Relativistic Astrophysics (ICRA). In 1987, the Vatican Observatory, in collaboration with the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences, based in Berkeley, California, has initiated a series of study seminars in an interdisciplinary field involving science, philosophy and theology on the subject. of divine action in scientific perspective. The Observatory is financed annually by the Holy See; However, for the execution of special programs such as VATT, the Observatory has the help of friends and benefactors, and for this purpose the company “Vatican Observatory Foundation” was founded, exempt from taxes in the State of Arizona.