Vatican Astronomer to Discuss Space Exploration

Monday, February 15, 2010

Brother Guy J. Consolmagno, SJ, an American research astronomer and planetary scientist at the Vatican Observatory, will discuss “The Ethics of Exploration: Planetary Astronomy” during a lecture at Agnes Scott College Feb. 16. The 7:30 p.m. event is in Evans Hall and is free and open to the public.
Brother Guy J. Consolmagno, SJ
A number of ethical issues arise in the field of planetary sciences ranging from the way astronomers do their work to the broader question of the nature of exploration itself. Is the study of astronomy a valid use of scarce resources, or does it make inappropriate demands on money, human talent and scarce environmental settings? Are humans “contaminating” space with their presence? Consolmagno will discuss these and many other questions during his lecture.

Consolmagno’s visit is part of Agnes Scott’s Ethics Lecture Series, “The Ethics of Exploration.” This year’s lecture series is also part of the college’s Year of Galileo, a yearlong series of events designed to help students explore Galileo’s complex life and innovative work on the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first astronomical use of the telescope.

Consolmagno’s research focuses on the connections between meteorites and asteroids, and the origin and evolution of small bodies in the solar system. In addition to over 40 refereed scientific papers, Consolmagno, who curates of the Vatican Meteorite collection, has co-authored several books on astronomy for the popular market. Among these are: Brother Astronomer: Adventures of a Vatican Scientist (2000), God’s Mechanics: How Scientists and Engineers Make Sense of Religion (2007) and The Heavens Proclaim: Astronomy and the Vatican (2009).

During 1996, he took part in the Antarctic Search for Meteorites, ANSMET, where he discovered a number of meteorites on the ice fields of Antarctica.

Consolmagno received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his doctorate from the University of Arizona. All of his academic degrees are in planetary science, though he has also studied philosophy and theology.

Before entering the Jesuit order in 1989, Consolmagno held several academic positions, including a postdoctoral research post at the Harvard College Observatory. He also spent two years in the U.S. Peace Corps, teaching astronomy and physics in Kenya.

Agnes Scott College educates women to think deeply, live honorably and engage the intellectual and social challenges of their times. Students are drawn to Agnes Scott by its excellent academic reputation, exceptional faculty and metropolitan Atlanta location—offering myriad social, cultural and experiential learning opportunities. This highly selective liberal arts college is known for its diverse and dynamic intellectual community. Through SUMMIT, it provides every student, regardless of major, with an individualized course of study and co-curricular experiences that develop leadership abilities and understanding of complex global dynamics.