From the Astronomical Observatory of the Roman College (Collegio Romano) to the Vatican Observatory (Specola Vaticana)
Abstract: We will describe the transition from the Astronomical Observatory of the Roman College to the Vatican Observatory. Following Fr. Angelo Secchi’s death, in 1879, the Italian State expropriated the Observatory of the Roman College. Ten years later, Fr. Francesco Denza organized a science exhibit with the help of Fr. Giuseppe Lais leading to a formal re-foundation of the Vatican Observatory in 1891 by the Motu Proprio (Papal edict) Ut Mysticam of Pope Leo XIII. We will focus on the contributions of Fr. Lais, deputy director under three Popes and three directors. Fr. Lais, as the last of Secchi’s disciples, cemented the connection between the Roman College Astronomical Observatory and the Vatican Observatory. In the 1906, the Observatory was officially entrusted to the Society of Jesus under the direction of Fr. Johann Hagen. In the Thirties the observatory moved from Vatican City to Castel Gandolfo. A spectrochemical lab was founded to study the meteorites collection. Forty years ago Fr. George Coyne (director 1978-2006) established an agreement with the University of Arizona in Tucson and a new research group of the Specola was established in the USA. In 1993 a new telescope, the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, was inaugurated on Mt. Graham. Today the research activity of the Specola continues from planetology to cosmology both in Castel Gandolfo and in Tucson.
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