Why the Cathedral of Learning now emits gigantic blue beams into the sky

Don’t worry. It’s not a Bat Signal or UFO or sign of the rapture.

A skyward-facing spotlight has been added to the Victory Lights at the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning.

A skyward-facing spotlight has been added to the Victory Lights at the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning.


This week, strange lights emerged in the sky over Oakland.

Pedestrians in East Liberty, 2.5 miles to the north east, gawked and wondered aloud if it was a Bat Signal. People were transfixed. Some were confused.

Online, the lights were traceable to Pitt’s campus, where equally awestruck social media posts from students on the ground there confirmed the lights were being projected from the top of the 42-story Cathedral of Learning and into the cloud cover above.

Absent any immediate explanation from school officials, Pitt students shared their own theories in response to a solicitation from The Pitt News on Twitter.   

The official explanation is a bit more mundane, but does nothing to diminish the impressiveness of the visual.

Turns out the lights were a test run for a new way of celebrating sporting victories at Pitt, so guardians of Gotham, stand down. They were made possible with a donation from an alumnus.

Here is the university’s official release in its entirety, which was provided to The Incline on Thursday.

Visible from numerous points of the city, the University of Pittsburgh this evening officially unveiled spectacular new Victory Lights atop the Cathedral of Learning.

One of Pitt’s most iconic traditions, the Victory Lights have bathed the top of the Cathedral in gold following football wins as well as championships won by other Panthers teams.

Through the generosity of Chris Bickell, a 1996 graduate of the University and passionate supporter of Pitt Athletics, the Victory Lights now feature an additional blue beam that dramatically shoots straight up into the sky. The result is a breathtaking combination of Blue and Gold atop Pitt’s most recognizable campus structure.

Head football coach Pat Narduzzi acknowledged the new Victory Lights this evening at Pitt’s annual National Signing Day reception at Heinz Field. “Our goal is to make sure the ‘on’ switch is flipped as much as possible for those beautiful new Victory Lights,” Narduzzi said. “Many thanks to Chris Bickell for his tremendous support of the Panthers.”

“We are grateful for Chris Bickell’s support of this unique project, enhancing an already amazing tradition at Pitt,” Director of Athletics Heather Lyke said. “It is one of the many ways we will try to build upon the awesome traditions we have at the University of Pittsburgh.”

It’s expected the lights will be made a regular feature in the coming year — UFO and rapture enthusiasts, take notice.