If Big D was real nice, and said please, he just might get an invite to the Vatican observatory.<quoted text>
Do you show the kids your great big telescope?
In its historical roots and traditions the Vatican Observatory is one of the oldest astronomical institutes in the world. For the first foreshadowing of the Observatory can be traced to the constitution by Pope Gregory XIII of a committee to study the scientific data and implications involved in the reform of the calendar which occurred in 1582. The committee included Father Christoph Clavius, a Jesuit mathematician from the Roman College, who expounded and explained the reform. From that time and with some degree of continuity the Papacy has manifested an interest in and support for astronomical research. In fact, three early observatories were founded by the Papacy: the Observatory of the Roman College (1774-1878)(illustrated), the Observatory of the Capitol (1827-1870), and the Specula Vaticana (1789-1821) in the Tower of the Winds within the Vatican. These early traditions of the Observatory reached their climax in the mid-nineteenth century with the researches at the Roman College of the famous Jesuit, Father Angelo Secchi, the first to classify stars according to their spectra. With these rich traditions as a basis and in order to counteract the longstanding accusations of a hostility of the Church towards science, Pope Leo XIII in 1891 formally refounded the Specola Vaticana (Vatican Observatory) and located it on a hillside behind the dome of St. Peter's Basilica.
Several religious orders contributed personnel and directors to the Observatory. These included Barnabites, Oratorians, Augustinians, and Jesuits.
For a little more than four decades astronomical research, which included a prominent international program to map the whole sky, was carried out in the shadow of St. Peter's, but it eventually became obvious that the urban growth of the Eternal City was brightening the sky to such an extent that the fainter stars could no longer be studied.
Thus it was that Pope Pius XI provided a new location for the Observatory at the Papal Summer Residence at Castel Gandolfo [ illustrated ] in the Alban Hills some 25 kilometers southeast of Rome.
Father Angelo Secchi in the foreground is surrounded by (from leftbackground to right foreground) Pope Gregory XIII, Pope Leo XIII, and Pope Pius XI. Painting by Fantini.
It is here that the modern observatory, entrusted to the Jesuits, was refounded in the 1930s with the construction of two new telescopes, the installation of an astrophysical laboratory for spectrochemical analysis, and the expansion of several important research programs on variable stars. With the installation of a Schmidt wide-angle telescope in 1957 research was extended to other topics such as new techniques for the classification of stars according to their spectra. This is still an active program at the observatory and recalls the pioneering work of Angelo Secchi.