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Why there will be a heart-shaped air display above Cambridge today

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A heart in the sky will be visible to those in Cambridge city centre today.

The special air display has been organised by St Catharine’s College to celebrate the academic achievements of about 140 graduating students.

A heart-shaped vapour trail will be visible in Cambridge city centre (37242193)
A heart-shaped vapour trail will be visible in Cambridge city centre (37242193)

The University of Cambridge college said the large heart-shaped vapour trail was a symbol of its “great affection for and enormous pride in its students”, and had been arranged because the Covid-19 pandemic has meant the usual graduation traditions are not taking place.

The display will be visible at about 12.30pm today (Thursday June 25), depending on air conditions, the college confirmed this morning.

It will involve a single aircraft, involving Mark Jefferies and the Global Stars flying team based at the airfield in Little Gransden.

Professor Sir Mark Welland, master of St Catharine’s, said: “On behalf of the entire St Catharine’s community, I am delighted to offer my heartfelt congratulations to our graduating students.

“Our pride in the successes achieved by our students, in quite exceptional circumstances this year, is today writ large in the sky above Cambridge.

“I hope everyone in Cambridge who sees the air display will enjoy this special moment that marks the next chapter in the lives of our students.”

St Catharine's College, Cambridge (37242191)
St Catharine's College, Cambridge (37242191)

Dr Holly Canuto, senior tutor of St Catharine’s, added: “Graduation is an important milestone for any student ­– and the culmination of many years of hard work by our students, as well as all the support and encouragement that they received from families, friends, our fellows and staff throughout their time at St Catharine’s.

“Today is an opportunity to honour our graduating students and celebrate with the wider Cambridge community as a whole during this difficult time.”

Today would have been the first in a series of graduation days for St Catharine’s students, under usual circumstances.

But with no gatherings able to take place, graduating students will have degrees conferred in their absence (‘in absentia’).

Students who had expected to attend ceremonies this year will still be rewarded with their degrees and will be offered the chance to come back to celebrate together at a later date when restrictions are lifted.

Traditionally, St Catharine’s students begin graduation day by gathering for a group photograph in the historical Main Court of the college, before walking up King’s Parade to Senate House for the ceremony itself.

The college has commissioned the air display to be visible from Main Court.

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St Catharine’s College lit up in blue

Update: Pictured - Heart-shaped vapour trail above Cambridge marks graduation of St Catharine’s College students

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