Yale Summer Program in Astrophysics (YSPA)

The Yale Summer Program in Astrophysics (YSPA) is a research and enrichment program hosted at Yale’s Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium (LFOP) for 36 rising high school seniors. YSPA students learn practical skills in computer programming, data analysis, statistics, writing, and other research methods. The students use the telescopes at the Leitner Observatory (as well as remote observatories) to collect data for their research project. They learn to program and analyze data in the computer lab at the Leitner Observatory. Finally, they write their results in the form of a scientific paper and present those results at our YSPA mini-conference.

The program consists of a two-week online, directed self-study program followed by a four-week residential program. The two-week program includes exercises in Python programming and observational astronomy. After the students arrive on campus their classes are held at Leitner Digital Planetarium Theater in the morning. The following topics are covered in math, physics, and astronomy:

  • Observational Astronomy

  • Telescope Optics

  • CCD Imaging and Calibration

  • Photometry

  • Spectroscopy

  • Stellar Astrophysics

  • Stellar Evolution

  • Differential Calculus

  • Numerical Simulations

  • Radiative Transfer Modeling

  • Model Optimization

  • Genetic Algorithms

  • Machine Learning for Data Mining

  • Statistics and Uncertainty in Measurements

  • Scientific Writing

Later during the day, the students work in the observatory computer lab to learn computer programming and data analysis techniques using software and Python packages such as:

  • SAO DS9

  • AstroimageJ

  • NumPy

  • astropy

  • matplotlib

  • MESA

The students work in teams on a research project that requires them to get data using telescopes at the Leitner Observatory (LFOP), such as our 0.4-meter Ritchey-Chretien Telescope, and from remote observatories in New Mexico, California, Chile, and Australia. The students work on different projects every year. They create their research projects with feedback from the Yale faculty.


YSPA is a very competitive program. Rising seniors who have an aptitude for science, math, and an interest in astrophysics are eligible to apply for this program.

Application Components:

High school transcripts
Letter of recommendation from two teachers.
Standardized test scores will not be considered for this program.

Cost of Attendance

The tuition for the YSPA 2024 program is $7,500 This includes academic tuition, room and board, field trips, project costs, and instructional materials. It does not include travel expenses to and from the program, health insurance, or incidental expenses.

In conclusion, the Yale Summer Program in Astrophysics (YSPA) provides an exceptional opportunity for rising high school seniors to engage in cutting-edge research in the field of astrophysics. Through practical training in computer programming, data analysis, statistics, and scientific writing, YSPA students develop the skills necessary to conduct independent research projects. YSPA is an invaluable program for students interested in pursuing a career in astrophysics.

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