Students aim for the stars in the Mary Aloysia Hardey Observatory


Lili Jordan '23

The Mary Aloysia Hardey Observatory offers views of Jupiter, Saturn, and the moon.

Bundled in layers of clothing, members of the community huddle together on a brisk, clear night to look through the Mary Aloysia Hardey Observatory’s telescope and see star clusters, planets, and galaxies millions of miles away.  Every Friday night, weather permitting, the Mary Aloysia Hardey Observatory at Sacred Heart Greenwich is open to the public.  Sacred Heart encourages all community members, from lower schoolers to alumnae, to visit the observatory.  Mr. Robert Morrow, Upper School Physics and Astronomy Teacher and Mary Aloysia Hardey Observatory Coordinator, and senior Advika Dushyanth commented on the unique opportunities the observatory presents and on the importance of young girls in astronomy.

Astronomy students can observe planets such as Saturn.  Courtesy of Mr. Rick Bria

An astronomy course is available for seniors.  During the first semester of this school year, members of the class read The Last Stargazers, a story told by female author and astronomer Ms. Emily Levesque.  In her book, Ms. Levesque shares how it feels to be a woman in a male-dominated field.  She further discusses how collaborative science is by describing instances where she had to work with people from all over the world.

Advika commented on the importance of introducing more women to astronomy.  She believes that the astronomy class and observatory are a great first step for girls aiming to immerse themselves in the science field.

“Astronomy is a male-dominated field, as most sciences are, but as an allgirls school, we get the chance to learn about it in a collaborative environment where all voices are heard,” Advika said.  “With an observatory on campus, we have the ability to get hands-on experience with different telescopes and technology making us more knowledgeable before we head into the field.”

Mr. Morrow elaborated on the value of teaching more girls about science.  He believes that a shift in the field is necessary when it comes to the stereotype that women are not as capable as men. 

Historically in the sciences, we see mostly men who have been credited with work while women do not receive as much credit for doing tremendous work that often causes many big discoveries,” Mr. Morrow said.  “It is important with astronomy that everyone becomes involved and is respected for their contributions.  We need to have a cultural shift and change to understand that it is not about being a man or woman and that all people should be promoted to pursue the sciences.”

Students witness a lunar eclipse from the Mary Aloysia Hardey Observatory.  Courtesy of Mr. Rick Bria

A lunar eclipse took place November 8 2022, marking one of the most notable observatory panoramas this school year.  For this event to happen, the moon fell into the earth’s shadow and totality occurred when the shadow enveloped the moon.  When the moon experiences totality, viewers are able to witness the color of the moon transform into a rusty-red color.  Three students, along with Mr. Rick Bria, Astronomy Technician, experienced the lunar eclipse from the observatory on campus and photographed the event with the observatory’s telescope.

Mr. Morrow discussed the benefits of having access to an observatory on campus and how it gives the community a chance to come together.  He believes that the observatory is a unique opportunity for all members of Sacred Heart.

“Having an observatory on campus provides the chance for students, staff, faculty, alumnae, and every one part of the larger Sacred Heart community to come and see things that they normally wouldn’t see live and in person,” Mr. Morrow said.  “The first time people see something like the details of the Sun or the rings of Saturn, you can see the awe they experience, and it’s really thrilling to be a part of that.”

Featured Image by Lili Jordan ’23