Why Do We Look Up at the Heavens?

Event Details

Thursday, April 12, 2018

7:00pm - 8:00pm

Auditorium, Technology Square Research Building (TSRB), 85 5th St NW, Atlanta, GA 30308

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Event Details

Why did we go to the Moon? Why does the Vatican support an astronomical observatory? These questions mask a deeper question: Why do individuals choose to spend their lives in pursuit of pure knowledge?

Vatican Observatory Director Brother Guy Consolmagno will reflect on the motivations behind our choices, both as individuals and as a society and how they control the sorts of science that gets done. Motivations determine the kinds of answers that are found to be satisfying. And ultimately, they affect how we think of ourselves.

About the Speaker

Guy Consolmagno is a brother in the Roman Catholic Society of Jesus (SJ, the Jesuits), working since 1993 as an astronomer and meteorite specialist at the Specola Vaticana (Vatican Observatory), located in the Papal summer gardens outside Rome. Since 2014, he has been president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, which supports the work of the Observatory and especially its 1.8-meter Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT), in Arizona. In September 2015, Pope Francis named him director of the Vatican Observatory.

Consolmagno's research explores connections between meteorites, asteroids, and the evolution of small solar-system bodies. Along with more than 200 scientific publications, he is the author of a number of popular books, including: Turn Left at Orion (with Dan Davis), and most recently, Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? (with Fr. Paul Mueller, SJ). He also has hosted science programs for BBC Radio 4, has been interviewed in numerous documentary films, and writes a monthly science column for the British Catholic magazine The Tablet.

A native of Detroit, Michigan, Consolmagno earned two degrees from MIT and a doctorate in planetary sciences from the University of Arizona. He was a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard and MIT, served in the US Peace Corps (Kenya), and taught university physics at Lafayette College before entering the Jesuits in 1989.

Consolmagno has served as chair of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences (AAS/DPS) and on the planetary surfaces nomenclature committee of the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

Asteroid 4597 Consolmagno was named in recognition of his work. In 2014, he won the American Astronomical Society’s Carl Sagan Medal for excellence in public communication in planetary science.

Last revised May 23, 2018