Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ has been appointed as director of the Vatican Observatory.
The Jesuit, who grew up in Detroit, Michigan, has said he would baptise an alien but “only if they asked”. At a science festival in Birmingham he said: “Any entity – no matter how many tentacles it has – has a soul.”
He also said he would be “delighted” if intelligent life was found among the stars but admitted it was unlikely.
Last year he was awarded the prestigious Carl Sagan Medal for his work in making scientific learning accessible to the public.
He also has an asteroid named after him – 4597 Consolmagno – thanks to his work documenting the evolution of small bodies in the solar system.
Brother Consolmagno is the president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation and the curator of the Vatican meteorite collection at Castel Gandolfo.