It's back to school time in the northern hemisphere, and at the Vatican Observatory we're both celebrating our summer schools past and letting the world know about our Summer School, Future!
First, some information about the upcoming summer school. It's called the VOSS (for Vatican Observatory Summer School.) It runs for four weeks. It is open to students from around the world who are in the last years of their undergraduate or opening years of graduate studies in astronomy or astrophysics; it is held at our headquarters in Castel Gandolfo; it features a world class teaching staff (more about them, below); and it's free. (If you can afford it, we ask you to pay some part of the cost of travel and housing; if you can't, we cover it.)
There are two restrictions on who gets to attend. First, we only want students who intend to continue in a career in astronomy. This is not for anyone who already has a job or a PhD, nor for advanced amateurs, nor for kids no matter how bright they are. And we will only take two students from any given country.
Pass the word to any students you know who might be interested in applying. How do you apply? Click here!
So, what happens at a typical summer school? You travel to Rome and meet another two dozen students who are just as smart as you are (some, more so!). You spend a few hours in the morning attending lectures on astronomy, from some of the top scientists in the field of whatever subject the school covers. (The 2020 school is on galactic centers, or "centres" – since the head of the school works in the UK. Other schools have been about cosmology, stellar spectra, asteroids and comets, exobiology...) You have coffee, and talk about astronomy. You have lunch (free lunch! Italian food!) and talk about astronomy. You work in teams on projects about astronomy that might lead to a publication or two. You tour historical sites in Rome. You go to the beach. You spend a weekend in Florence seeing the places where Galileo lived and worked. You hang out with two dozen new friends who are just as much fun to be with as you are (some, more so!) and talk about astronomy.
To drop some names... past schools have been taught by people like Vera Rubin, Peter Biermann, Jonathan Lunine. Previous schools have had students like Fernando Comerón, Ray Jayawardhana, Heino Falke, Mercedes Richards.
And those friendships stay with you for the rest of your career. For the rest of your life. Proof of that? Every five or ten years we have a reunion, called a super-VOSS... and there's a superVOSS happening right now, this week!