The World and the Universe Meet at Castel Gandolfo

  • Article
  • 6 pages
  • Level: all audiences

This article from the May 2000 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine discusses the Vatican Observatory and in particular the Vatican Observatory Summer School (or VOSS) program.

THE SMALL, PICTURESQUE TOWN of Castel Gandolfo lies 25 kilometers southeast of Rome. Sitting on top of a ridge 500 meters above sea level, it overlooks the tranquil, greenish blue Lake Albano, formed by the collapse of an ancient volcanic crater. The town’s narrow, cobbled main street leads past little cafes, souvenir shops, and a beautiful church and fountain designed by the 17th-century Italian artist Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini. Finally you come to a four-story ocher edifice with small shuttered windows and a pair of massive wooden doors–the Pontifical Palace of the Roman Catholic Church. Officially a part of Vatican City, this is where Pope John Paul II spends the summer months to escape Rome’s oppressive heat and humidity. It is also the headquarters of Vatican Observatory.

Every two years the palace’s cloistered halls and courtyard come alive with the vibrant voices of young people conversing, singing, and having fun. To the 10,000 residents and shop owners of Castel Gandolfo it can mean only one thing–the Vatican Observatory Summer School in Observational Astronomy and Astrophysics has begun….

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