The Vatican Observatory is one of the oldest astronomical research institutions in the world. It has its headquarters at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo outside Rome, while its dependent research center, the Vatican Observatory Research Group (VORG), is hosted by Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona, Tucson, USA.
The VORG operates the 1.8m Alice P. Lennon Telescope with its Thomas J. Bannan Astrophysics Facility, known together as the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT), located at the Mount Graham International Observatory (MGIO) in southeastern Arizona. The VATT is funded by the Vatican Observatory Foundation (VOF).
At a colloquium sponsored by the Vatican Observatory on the occasion of the International Year of Astronomy in 2009, Pope Benedict XVI invited those in attendance “to consider the immense progress of scientific knowledge in the modern age and, in a particular way, to turn our gaze anew to the heavens in a spirit of wonder, contemplation and commitment to the pursuit of truth, wherever it is to be found.” Inspired by these words and the recent encouragement of Pope Francis to go to the “existential outskirts,” and aware of the swift progress of our understanding of the universe, the Vatican Observatory staff has prepared this document to chart a scientific roadmap for its quest to address the big questions of astrophysics and cosmology.
We are enthusiastic about our mission. Like all astronomers our deepest desire is to be on the frontier of astronomical research; we share with our colleagues the same excitement in seeking answers to the fundamental questions about the universe:
Are we alone?
Are there other Earths?
How do stars and planets form and evolve?
How do galaxies form and evolve?
What is dark matter and dark energy?
What do we know about the universe in its first instants?
Are there many universes?
Follow the links here to see some of the things we are studying today at the Vatican Observatory!