This college hosts world-renowned astronomer

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Brother Guy Consolmagno gives a demonstration of the telescope at the Vatican Observatory in Castel Gandolfo, Italy.  Courtesy

Brother Guy Consolmagno gives a demonstration of the telescope at the Vatican Observatory in Castel Gandolfo, Italy. Courtesy

Vatican scientist to share experiences at Scobee May 15.

By Matthew Reyna

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

Being an author and astronomer at the Vatican Observatory is hard work, but for a Jesuit brother who has slept in a tent in Antarctica while hunting for meteorites, it is a breath of fresh air.

Brother Guy Consolmagno will present “Adventures of a Vatican Astronomer” at 9 p.m. May 15 at Scobee Education Center.

Consolmagno once famously said he would baptize an alien in “Would you Baptize an Extraterrestrial?” a book co-written by him and fellow Vatican astronomer Paul Mueller.

Consolmagno is the coordinator for public relations at the Vatican Observatory and president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation.

“Odd things tend to happen as an astronomer at the Vatican,” Consolmagno said during a phone interview. “My job is a wonderful mixture of writing, reading and answering emails.”

Brother Guy Consolmagno stands next to a statue of a meteorite at his alma mater, the University of Arizona.  Courtesy

Brother Guy Consolmagno stands next to a statue of a meteorite at his alma mater, the University of Arizona. Courtesy

Those odd things include the meteorite-hunting trip in Antarctica.

“Oh my gosh, what a wonderful adventure,” Consolmagno said. “They (meteorites) land everywhere and in Antarctica they stay frozen.”

Consolmagno said he was invited to speak by June Scobee Rodgers, one of the founders of the education center and widow of Challenger Space Shuttle Cmdr. Dick Scobee, whom the planetarium is named after.

Scobee Rodgers is a board member and big supporter of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, Consolmagno said.

Consolmagno will share his adventures and reflect on the common experience of astronomers in the Vatican.

Brother Guy Consolmagno participated in a 1996 expedition to search for meteorites on the blue ice of Antarctica.  Courtesy

Brother Guy Consolmagno participated in a 1996 expedition to search for meteorites on the blue ice of Antarctica. Courtesy

Consolmagno, curator of the Vatican meteorite collection, has co-authored five astronomy books and has degrees in earth and planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Arizona.

Consolmagno appeared on The Colbert Report in 2009 to promote “The Heavens Proclaim,” a book he co-edited.

Consolmagno, 62, took his orders as a Jesuit brother in 1991 and began his work at the Vatican Observatory in 1993.

Before his assignment to the Vatican he had worked as a lecturer for MIT and Harvard and taught physics and astronomy for two years in Kenya as a member of the Peace Corps.

Consolmagno said his love of science does not hinder his religious belief. In fact, it makes his belief in God even stronger.

“There’s no conflict. Why would I think there’s a conflict?” Consolmagno said. “It’s about the sheer love of nature, sheer love of the universe. Science that tells me the truth gets me closer to God.”

The International Astronomical Union honored Consolmagno by naming the asteroid 4597 Consolmagno after the astronomer.

Consolmagno said advantages of his job include annual meetings with the pope.

“Recently, Pope Francis had lunch with us,” Consolmagno said. “Pope Benedict visited us and before that, John Paul II. They’re all wonderful people in their own way.”

Admission is $5, and the presentation is open to the general public.

A Q&A session will take place after the event.

The observatory deck will be available for viewing following the presentation.

“We have a star party planned for the evening Brother Guy arrives,” said planetarium coordinator Bob Kelley. “We will definitely have some telescopes set up.”

For information, call 210-486-0100.

To contact Consolmagno, email gjc@specola.va.

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