Astronomers in Preston have received some divine intervention of sorts when the University of Central Lancashire hosted a visit from a member of the Vatican Observatory.
Brother Guy Consolmagno, the director of the Vatican Observatory at Castel Gandolfo in Rome, spoke to PhD and research students in astronomy, physics and maths, before heading to the Alston Observatory.
The visit, organised by the Study Abroad Team, is hopefully the start of future co-operation between UCLan and the Vatican Observatory.
The Papal delegate was very impressed with the work that staff and students are doing, as well as features like the recently acquired Moses Holden Telescope (MHT) and the Discovery Dome Planetarium.
The MHT is the UK’s largest operational undergraduate teaching telescope and cost around £250,000.
He was shown some results from it, including images of galaxies, a distant supernova, a jet from a black hole in an active galaxy, and a detection of a planet around another star.
Brother Consolmagno said: “I have seen many similar university observatories in the United States, but I have never come across one that is as productive as this.”
He was in Preston to give a talk organised by St Wilfrid’s church and the Xaverian Missionaries on his role at the observatory and also met with key staff from the Jeremiah Horrocks Institute, Director Professor Derek Ward-Thompson and Dr Mark Norris.
Prof Ward-Thompson said: “It was fantastic to receive such a respected visitor.
“The students were absolutely delighted to meet someone from such an esteemed background, and it’s an honour that he came here.”
Brother Consolmagno’s work has taken him to every continent in the world. In 1996, he spent six weeks collecting meteorites with a NASA team on the blue ice regions of East Antarctica.
He even had an asteroid named after him in 2000 called 4597 Consolmagno.