In September, Pope Francis named Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno to be the new director of the Vatican Observatory.

Consolmagno, an astronomer, has worked at the Vatican Observatory since 1993 as a planetary scientist studying meteorites and asteroids. He replaces Jesuit Father Jose Funes, who had been on staff at the observatory since 2000 and its director since 2006.

Serving as president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, Consolmagno has also been the coordinator of public relations and curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Castel Gandolfo.

His research focuses on meteorites, asteroids and the origin and evolution of small bodies in the solar system. He was honored for his work by the International Astronomical Union in 2000 with the naming of an asteroid after him, the “4597 Consolmagno,” a small, 12-mile-wide rock orbiting near the sun.

Author of numerous books on science and faith, he received the prestigious Carl Sagan Medal in 2014 for his ability to communicate accurately and clearly the discoveries of planetary science to the general public. His most recent book was Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? And Other Questions from the Astronomers’ In-box at the Vatican Observatory (coauthored with Fr. Paul Mueller, SJ).

The same day the Vatican announced Brother Consolmagno’s appointment, Pope Francis met with the observatory staff and guests taking part in a special symposium sponsored by the papal astronomers. “The church urgently needs religious who dedicate their lives to being on the very frontiers between faith and human knowledge, faith and modern science,” the pope told the group, according to the Catholic News Service.

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