FACT CHECK: Does The Vatican Own A Telescope Called ‘Lucifer’?

Elias Atienza | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook claims the Vatican owns a telescope called “Lucifer.”

Facebook/Screenshot

Facebook/Screenshot

Verdict: False

The LUCIFER, now called LUCI, is an instrument on the Large Binocular Telescope, neither of which is owned by the Vatican. The Vatican Observatory Research Group operates a telescope in Arizona called the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope.

Fact Check:

In recent days, multiple Facebook users have been attempting to link the Vatican to a telescope supposedly called “Lucifer,” a name used to refer to Satan in Christianity. One iteration of the claim garnered over 300 shares before being deleted.

The post appears to be referencing the LBT Near Infrared Spectroscopic Utility with Camera and Integral Field Unit for Extragalactic Research (LUCIFER) at the Mount Graham International Observatory in Arizona. The LUCIFER, which was renamed LUCI in 2012, is actually an instrument mounted on the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT), according to Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics. The Vatican and its observatory are not among the research institutions listed on the LBT Observatory website as operating or owning the LBT.

In addition to the LBT, the Mount Graham International Observatory hosts other telescopes, including the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT). The VATT is operated by the Vatican Observatory Research Group, which falls under the Vatican Observatory established by the Holy See, according to the University of Arizona’s website.

Tobias Herrmann, a spokesperson for the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, which is part of the LBT Observatory Collaboration, told Check Your Fact in an email that the claim was a “rather old rumor” that had previously been debunked. Herrmann pointed Check Your Fact to a 2019 article on a Christian website that also refutes the allegation.

“Our institute in fact developed some instruments for the telescope,” Herrmann said. “The Vatican was not involved.” (RELATED: Was Pope Francis Arrested On Charges Including Human Trafficking And Fraud)

Check Your Fact also reached out to the Vatican Observatory for comment and will update this article if a response is provided.

Elias Atienza

Fact Check Reporter
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