Star-gazing: the Vatican Observatory

On this week's "Interfaith Voices," I interviewed two Jesuits (one brother, one priest) who work at the Vatican's Observatory: Br. Guy Consolmagno (who has won the Carl Sagan Medal for outstanding communication by a planetary scientist with the general public) and Fr. Paul Mueller, a physicist. 

They have co-authored a new book, Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? and Other Questions from the Astronomers' In-box at the Vatican Observatory.

As I discovered, this extraterrestrial baptism issue is a common question they get asked by observatory visitors.

So I asked, "OK, would you do that? Baptize an extraterrestrial?"

They said simply, "If she asked." Of course, they pointed out that this assumed an ability to communicate and some understanding of baptism, as well. So the real answer is: "Maybe."

Some people might wonder why the Vatican even has an observatory. It's because of an interest in the heavens (however one defines that), the planets and the stars. And it turns out that the Vatican has been stargazing (read that verb as you wish!) for more than 100 years. The observatory was founded by Pope Leo XIII in 1891, at least in part to validate Catholic interest in science and the universe.

The observatory has two locations for its telescopes. The oldest one is at Castel Gandolfo, near the vacation residence of the pope south of Rome. The other is in Arizona at Mount Graham International Observatory, near Safford.

These are two interesting, and obviously fun-loving, Jesuits.

Listen to the interview.

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