Brother Guy Consolmagno
Brother Guy Consolmagno

On seven different occasions in February, March, and April, the presenters in this year’s UA College of Science series, “Life in the Universe,” will be featured in the Arizona Senior Academy’s annual encore series giving east side residents a chance to see and hear these thought-provoking lectures.

In this series, the speakers will be addressing questions that there are no simple answers for. The first speaker, Brother Guy Consolmagno, will treat the question “What is Life?” at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday (Feb. 11). The Senior Academy will offer subsequent encore lectures in the series on Feb. 18, Feb. 26, March 5, March 12, April 1 and April 8.

Brother Consolmagno, SJ, Planetary Scientist, Vatican Observatory Research Group, has a unique perspective as both a scientist and a man of faith – which last year earned him the Carl Sagan Medal from the American Astronomical Society (AAS). His book, “Turn Left at Orion” has been cited as having an enormous impact on the amateur astronomy community.

Consolmagno especially likes the topic chosen to kick off our series.  He just does not have an answer to the question posed in its title, “What is Life?”  He has an answer as a Jesuit brother, but his expertise in science and his public lectures are scientific, not religious.

Science relies on evidence, and so far the only kind of life we recognize is the life here on Earth.  That does not provide the kind of variety needed to compare and define it. “When we only knew Earth, we didn’t know what a planet was,” he said.

Consolmagno says we might get a better handle on a definition for life when we find other examples of life elsewhere in the universe.  That may never happen, but, “The lovely thing is there are many things I thought as a student 40 years ago that we’d never know.  And now we do.”

Consolmagno is president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, with offices in the Vatican and in Tucson, where he is closer to the Vatican’s Advanced Technology Telescope on Mount Graham.

Written by Janet Kerans, Academy Village Volunteer

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UA Science Series Ponders Life Itself: Feb. 2015