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Why The Vatican Has A Giant Research Telescope in Arizona

This is the Vatican. It’s located in Vatican City. This is the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope. It’s located in Graham Country, Arizona.

Now, if you’re a keen observer, you may have noticed that Graham County, Arizona is not in Vatican City.

You may have also noticed that the Vatican is about churches and God and stuff, and that telescopes, though tall and occasionally mysterious, are neither a church nor a god… which raises the question: so, like, why do they have that?

Well, there are a few ways to answer that question. The simple answer is calendars and light pollution. You see, in order to know when to celebrate Easter and Christmas and stuff, you need calendars, and calendars are fundamentally based on astronomy—a year isn’t just the period between Slurpee Days, it’s also equal to one of Earth’s rotations around the sun.

The Gregorian calendar, which modified the leap year calculations of the Julian calendar while keeping its classic hits such as “July” and “August,” was actually developed in the mid-1500s by astronomers at the Jesuit-founded Collegio Romano, and popularized by Pope Gregory XIII.

Because the Catholic Church needs to know exactly which days they should be judging you extra hard for not going to church, the Church has long had observatories.

They had the Gregorian Tower in 1580, the Observatory of the Roman College in 1774, the Specola Vaticana in 1787, then they decided having an observatory behind a giant dome wasn’t the perfect idea they’d expected so they moved to the College Observatory, then the Italian government said “actually that’s ours now,” so they made a new Specola vaticana in 1891, then Rome got too bright and smoky so they went to the Observatory at Castel Gandolfo in the 1930s, then that got too bright and smoky, so in 1993 they built a telescope, put it on a mountain in Arizona, and crossed their fingers that Tuscon will never get too popular.

The telescope, by the way, is a 1.8 meter Gregorian telescope, meaning it uses mirrors, not lenses, and it does it in this pattern, instead of any of these patterns. Because it’s supported unconditionally by the Vatican, it doesn’t have to worry about earning grants or funding, so it’s something of a workhouse in the astronomy world: it does the less glamorous work like measuring meteorites that doesn’t win awards but that provides useful data for the entire field.

So that’s the simple answer: the Vatican needed telescopes for calendars and stuff, and now they have a big telescope in Arizona because that’s a good place for telescopes. The longer answer delves into the relationship between the Catholic Church and science, which is a long and complicated one that I’m sure won’t offend anyone by discussing.

In other ways, you’re my greatest enemy. Some could argue that the Catholic Church, throughout history, has been the world’s greatest supporter of science.

The Catholic Church created the first universities in Europe and were longstanding supporters of engineering, which they used to build cathedrals with domes on them because for hundreds of years people seemed to think the greatest way to honor God was curved ceilings and several of history’s greatest scientists were Catholic clergy Nicolaus Copernicus, Gregor Mendel, and others that aren’t the first two names listed on the Wikipedia page for “List of Catholic clergy scientists,” including several who helped develop the scientific method.

On the other hand, the guy who actually invented the scientific method was put in jail by the Church for saying the earth went around the sun. So maybe keep that in mind the next time you consider spamming the suggestions form. Today, the Catholic Church continues to oppose certain forms of stem cell research, and has long banned some medical innovations, like birth control.

Yet, despite not providing some important forms of health care, the Catholic Church is still today the world’s largest provider of medical care and research facilities in the world. The Church has slowly come to accept the theory of evolution and the Big Bang Theory, which was partly developed by the Catholic priest Georges Lemaitre.

Most of the Church’s attitude towards science can be summed up in the Catholic catechism, which argues that because God is truth, anything science convincingly manages to discern as true basically has to line up with God.

It reads, “there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth.

I’ll close by saying that I feel like this video ended up weirdly pro the Catholic Church, so just to prove I’m not some sort of planted Vatican spon-con, uh, here are 95 theses about why they suck, and one photo of the Pope that I photoshopped to look like when Mario is short because he got hit by a Goomba.

If you enjoyed that picture of baby Pope, might I interest you in some other weird footage: a person in a bear suit clapping at a business meeting, a baby doll with a nail through its head getting gasoline poured on it, an orangutan with a cheeseburger.

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