The Vatican Observatory is being opened up to the public

When people ask why the Vatican has an observatory, one Jesuit priest says it’s because it cannot afford a particle accelerator.

This nerdy quip by the Vatican Observatory’s vice director, Jesuit Fr Paul Mueller, has become his signature response to those who are surprised to discover that popes have collected telescopes.

Eleven Jesuit astronomers live, work and pray together at two sites: one is in Arizona, at the modern Mount Graham International Observatory, and the other is at their historic headquarters on the grounds of the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo near Rome.

Fr Mueller, a US priest who has degrees in physics, history, philosophy and theology, and a doctorate in the history and philosophy of science, says: “Science is part of our life; for us there is no conflict, no tension.”

He spoke while giving reporters a tour of the observatory’s facilities at the papal villa. Four observatory domes and telescopes are housed in two buildings ­– one being the papal residence itself, with a stunning view of Lake Albano, and the other a newly refurbished building in the wooded gardens.

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