Jesuit Astrophysicist is Exploring the Heavens

Texas Astronomy Club to Welcome Vatican Astronomer and Author for Lecture

March 4, 2008

Brother Guy Consolmagno will address the Texas Astronomical Society of Dallas on Friday with a talk about his experiences as a Vatican astrophysicist.

The meeting, hosted by the UT Dallas Physics Department, is at 7:30 p.m. in Kusch Auditorium in the Founders North building (FN 2.102).

A book from 2000 describes Brother Guy Consolmagno's unique path.

Brother Guy, as he is known, is a Jesuit astrophysicist whose interest in science and wonder at the universe led him to religion. He divides his time between Vatican observatory sites in Italy and Arizona.

He serves as curator of the Vatican meteorite collection. The world’s largest such collection has grown from the initial donation of 1,000 samples given in 1905 to more than 1,200 pieces representing 484 different meteorite falls. Current research on these meteorites is focused on understanding their physical structure, including the nature and extent of the pore spaces, cracks and voids present in the rocks.

The hope is that the studies will offer insight into how the samples were formed more than 4.5 billion years ago, when the planets themselves were being formed. The studies are being conducted in collaboration with scientists in Great Britain, France, Italy and the U.S.

Brother Guy has published five major books, including Left Turn at Orion and Brother Astronomer. In his most recent work, God’s Mechanics, he finds that scientists and technologists turn to faith for their own, unique reasons. 

He said the idea for his fifth book came after some techie friends asked him to explain the “nuts and bolts of how” to believe in a particular religious creed.

In 1891 Pope Leo XIII formally established the Vatican Observatory at the Pope’s Summer residence at Castel Gondolfo, Italy.

A lunar eclipse
Physics Prof. Joe Izen took this picture of the eclipsed moon on Feb. 20.
The observatory has been entrusted to the Jesuits since 1934. Observatory staff members work from facilities south of Rome and at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

The Physics Department and the Texas Astronomical Society host quarterly star parties on the UT Dallas campus.

The most recent event featured a viewing of last month’s lunar eclipse.

The public is invited, and admission is free.


More information: J. Izen, UT Dallas, joe@utdallas.edu or www.texasastro.org

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Brother Guy Consolmagno with the Vatican's meteorite collection
Brother Guy Consolmagno serves as curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Castel Gandolfo, Italy. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Nickerson)

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