Award for Jesuit astronomer

Jesuit astronomer, Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ, has been awarded the prestigious Carl Sagan Medal for “outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist". The award was made by the American Astronomical Society’s (AAS) Division for Planetary Sciences, which described him as “the voice of the juxtaposition of planetary science and astronomy with Christian belief, a rational spokesperson who can convey exceptionally well how religion and science can co-exist for believers”.

Br Consolmagno became a Jesuit when he was in his late 30s, after working for the Harvard College Observatory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Peace Corps. He is an astronomer to the Vatican Observatory, where he also serves as curator of the Vatican Meteorite collection.

Widely respected as a writer and speaker on scientific matters from a faith perspective, Br Consolmagno is frequently interviewed on BBC radio about planetary science and his public lectures – including many in Britain – are always popular and help convey the excitement of scientific inquiry to the general public. He writes for The Tablet, is renowned for his home astronomy guidebook Turn Left At Orion, and explored the origins of the universe in his BBC radio show A Brief History of the End of Everything

A statement from the Society of Jesus in Rome said that Br Consolmagno had received the Carl Sagan Medal “because of his unique perspective as both a scientist and a man of faith”. Carl Sagan was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author and science communicator in astronomy and other natural sciences who died in 1996. He is best known for his research on the possibilities of extra-terrestrial life.

On learning that he had been awarded the Carl Sagan Medal, Br Consolmagno told Catholic News Service that he believes that Catholic scientists should not hesitate to share their love of science with their communities, in order to show that the Church is not opposed to science. “Show them that our religion does not tell us what ‘facts’ we can believe, but rather our religion gives us the reason why we go looking to try to understand those facts,” he said.