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Samantha Putterman
By Samantha Putterman November 22, 2021

No, the Vatican doesn’t own a telescope called Lucifer

If Your Time is short

  • The Vatican Observatory’s research group in Arizona shares space with other organizations.

  • One of those groups installed a telescope and briefly nicknamed one of its attachments “Lucifer” in an attempt at an acronym. The instrument is owned and operated by several institutions, but the Vatican isn’t one of them. 

  • The attachment was renamed LUCI in 2012.

An old rumor about the Vatican and the devil has resurfaced on social media.

Shared by a Facebook page called "Exposing the elite agenda," a post that displays images of snakes and statues claims that the Vatican insidiously has a telescope named "Lucifer."

"The Vatican owns a telescope called L.U.C.I.F.E.R. But that’s none of your business," the Nov. 21 post said. 

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat potential false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

This is wrong. The Vatican, which has its own observatory, does not have a telescope called "Lucifer." 

The Vatican Observatory has a research center at the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory, where it shares space with other organizations and groups. One of those groups installed a telescope there and nicknamed an instrument that attached to it "Lucifer." 

The Vatican Observatory was founded in 1891 and is based at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, outside Rome. We reached out to the observatory but didn’t immediately hear back.

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The institution’s dependent research center, the Vatican Observatory Research Group, is hosted by the University of Arizona. The group operates the Alice P. Lennon Telescope with its Thomas J. Bannan Astrophysics Facility, known together as the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, located at the Mount Graham International Observatory in southeastern Arizona, according to the organization’s website.

Since 2002, the Mount Graham facility has also housed the Large Binocular Telescope, one of the largest optical telescopes in the world, which is owned and operated by several institutions in the U.S. and around the world. The Vatican Observatory is not one of them.

Astronomers mount various instruments on telescopes for research, and the name of the one designed for the Large Binocular Telescope was a mouthful: "Large Binocular Telescope Near-infrared Spectroscopic Utility with Camera and Integral Field Unit for Extragalactic Research." Scientists often come up with catchy or silly names for telescopes and other equipment and were reaching to find an acronym for the instrument. Somewhere in that unwieldy name, they found the initials L.U.C.I.F.E.R.

But the nickname didn’t last. After people noticed that the instrument was on a site shared with the Vatican’s telescope, and began falsely linking it to the Vatican, it was renamed "LUCI" in 2012.

Our ruling

Facebook posts are recirculating an old rumor that the Vatican owns a telescope called "Lucifer."

The Vatican has an observatory with an outpost in Arizona. But it doesn’t own or operate any telescope or instrument named Lucifer. That nickname was briefly given to a piece of equipment that attached to a telescope at the same observatory site that’s owned and operated by several institutions. The Vatican Observatory is not one of them.

We rate this False.  

Our Sources

Facebook post, Nov. 21, 2021, Who are we?, Accessed Nov. 22, 2021 

Large Binocular Telescope Observatory, LBTO collaboration, Accessed Nov. 22, 2021, Does the Vatican Have a Telescope Called LUCIFER?, March 2, 2019, Relax—the Vatican Didn’t Name a Telescope "Lucifer", Accessed Nov. 22, 2021 

LUCI A Near-Infrared Camera & Spectrograph for the LBT, Accessed Nov. 22, 2021, Lucifer Instrument Helps Astronomers See Through Darkness to Most Distant Observable Objects, April 23, 2010, The silliest names scientists have given very serious telescopes, Nov. 11, 2016 

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No, the Vatican doesn’t own a telescope called Lucifer

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