“Learning the Universe: Data Science Tools for Astronomical Surveys”

Vatican Observatory Summer School – June 2023

VOSS-2023 © Vatican Observatory

In June of 2023, twenty-five young astronomers from around the world will gather at the Vatican Observatory’s headquarters in Castel Gandolfo for an intensive four-week summer school in astrophysics.  These Vatican Observatory Summer Schools (or VOSS), held since 1986, have been among the most important works of the Observatory; it is hoped that the 2023 school will mark a return to its regular
biennial schedule of summer schools, following a five-year hiatus caused by the Covid pandemic.

The theme of this 18th VOSS is “Learning the Universe: Data Science Tools for Astronomical Surveys”.  Viviana Acquaviva, of the Flatiron Institute and City University of New York, and Željko Ivezić, from the University of Washington and the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, will lead a faculty including some of the world’s experts on applying the principles of machine learning to astrophysical studies.

As telescopes grow larger and the detectors on them become more sensitive, the amount of astronomical data that scientists need to understand has grown dramatically. Major astronomical surveys have already measured billions of celestial sources; future surveys, such as that of the new Rubin Observatory, will produce catalogs of tens of billions of stars and galaxies, and trillions of diverse precise measurements.  The 2023 VOSS 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 use these data sets for their own astronomical projects.

The summer school is open to advanced astronomy undergraduates and beginning graduate students from around the world. Most of the students selected come from developing countries. Tuition is free, and additional financial support is provided by donors through the Vatican Observatory Foundation, ensuring that every student accepted is able to attend.

Since their founding nearly 40 years ago, the Vatican Observatory Summer Schools have touched the lives of more than 400 young astronomers—and, when they return home, the lives of their friends and colleagues as well. The schools have always been strongly supported by the Popes; nearly every school has been granted a private audience with His Holiness.

VOSS faculty have included notable astronomers drawn from leading observatories and universities around the world. Among them have been Vera C. Rubin herself (part of the first VOSS); George and Marsha Reike, currently principal scientists on the infrared cameras carried by the James Webb Space Telescope; and Didier Queloz, winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics. Among its notable alumni is Heino
Falcke, a key player in the Event Horizon Telescope that first imaged the shadow of a black hole and recently imaged the black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

Faculty for VOSS 2023 include, in addition to Acquaviva and Ivezić: Dalya Baron, Carnegie Observatories; Marc Huertas-Company, Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias / Observatoire de Paris; Francisco Antonio Villaescusa Navarro, Flatiron Institute / Princeton University. Dr. Alessandro Omizzolo of the Vatican Observatory and the University of Padua will serve as dean of the school.

More information can be found at

Contact: Chris Graney, Vatican Observatory and Vatican Observatory Foundation
[email protected]