ROME — The Vatican has long pondered the cosmos from afar but now it’s studying how to care for space bits that fall to Earth with a conference on meteorites, cosmic dust, stardust and extraterrestrial samples.
The Vatican Observatory is hosting the first-ever workshop for curators of meteorite collections Sept. 10-13 at its headquarters at the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolofo, south of Rome.
Organizers said Monday the conference will bring together meteorite and extraterrestrial sample curators from Europe, North America, Russia, Morocco and Japan to discuss best practices in caring for their collections.
The curators not only care for meteorite collections, but also specimens gathered from space missions, such as the NASA Apollo moon rocks and the specimens from the Hayabusa mission to the asteroid 25143 Itokawa.
“The community of curators has been trying to organize itself for many years. This workshop represents a wonderful opportunity for us, and I am excited and pleased that the Vatican Observatory can host such an important meeting,” said Jesuit Brother Robert Macke, the curator of the Vatican meteorite collection and one of the organizers of the workshop.
“For years, meteorite curators have had to figure things out independently. Now we are finally coming together as a community,” Mackle said in a statement.
“It will be a good occasion to familiarize ourselves with the different collections and how they are curated,” said Ludovic Ferrière, co-curator of meteorites at the Natural History Museum of Vienna, Austria, and co-coordinator of the workshop.
“A number of different topics will be discussed, some historical aspects of course, but also about the curation of future sample-return missions and the associated technical challenges and current issues,” Ferrière added.
The Vatican Observatory was founded in 1891 to help correct the notion that the Catholic Church was hostile to science. The perception has persisted in some circles since Galileo’s heresy trial 400 years ago.
Crux staff contributed to this report.