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Vatican Observatory resumes summer program shuttered by pandemic

J-P Mauro - published on 08/27/22

The 2023 program will focus on acquainting students with technologies needed to analyze enormous sets of data.

The Vatican Observatory has announced the resumption of its summer astronomy program after two years of closure due to the world pandemic. In 2023, the Vatican Observatory will open its doors once again to students of astronomy for a four-week summer learning course.

Summer school

According to the Vatican Observatory’s announcement, the theme of the 2023 program will be, “Learning the Universe: Data Science Tools for Astronomical surveys.” In the course summary they note that modern tools for astronomical observation have advanced to the “petabyte domain,” a petabyte being one million gigabytes.

Sifting through this explosion of data will be no easy task for the next generation of astronomers and will require them to use new technologies to catalog billions of stars and galaxies. The Vatican Observatory wrote:

“We will explore the science behind these surveys, present the concepts of Big Data and Machine Learning, and provide a hands-on data analysis experience that will enable students to utilize these data sets for their own astronomical projects.”

Students who are selected for the four-week summer program at the Vatican Observatory will be instructed on the science drivers behind obtaining such large data sets and how to run simulations on the data. They will be given the opportunity for hands-on experience with tools for accessing and analyzing the images and data as well. Furthermore, the Observatory notes that it is open to projects realized by students during the program.


In a recent interview with EWTN, featured above, Vatican astronomer Chris Graney spoke about the re-emerging summer program at the Vatican Observatory. He explained that the program is geared towards students who are serious about a career in astronomy, who are selected from regions all over the world.

Previous summer sessions have focused on aspects such as galaxies, star clusters, water in the star system, and chemistry in the universe. This summer session, however, will focus on “learning the universe through Big Data.”

It’s not all poring over data sets and learning new technologies, however, as Graney revealed that the students will be treated to outings to historical sites and observing astronomical events as they take place. These activities help to support the school’s lectures by giving students practical experience in the field.

The Vatican Observatory’s summer program is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for astronomy students to bolster their knowledge (and their resumes), but it also comes with the possibility of an audience with the pope.

Apply for consideration for the Vatican Observatory’s 2023 summer school here.

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