Observatory's New Home Ready


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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JUNE 17, 2009 ( A renovated convent in Albano, Italy, is the new home of the Vatican Observatory -- a change that will give the Jesuits who work there better living and working space, and better accommodate visitors to the Observatory.

The Vatican Observatory had been housed in the pontifical palace at Castel Gandolfo, the town south of Rome where the Pope spends the summer months. It moved there in 1939, more than three centuries after its first beginnings within Vatican City, because of growing light pollution in Rome.

The Observatory and its 15 scientists are moving to their newest home this month, though the new space won't be inaugurated until October.

The move is an undertaking that involves the 22,000-volume library, which includes a collection of ancient books, as well as works by Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Kepler and others.

A notable collection of meteorites will also be part of the move.

The Vatican Observatory was founded in 1578 by Pope Gregory XIII as a committee to study the data and implications involved in the reform of the calendar that occurred in 1582.

Since that time, the papacy has continued to support astronomical research.

In 1981, the Observatory founded a second research center, again because of too much light in the night skies close to Rome. This time the researchers headed to the desert of the United States, founding the Vatican Observatory Research Group in Tucson, Arizona. That location is now one of the world's largest center's for observational astronomy.