A Change of Latitude
Feb 08, 2013
Is gazing into the sky in Santorini, Greece, much different than in Moorhead? Dr. Heidi Manning says the two locations are only about 11 degrees difference in latitude and the actual sky doesn’t appear that much different – but learning astronomy in Greece has some exciting benefits.
"There are so many clear days (on Santorini)," Manning says. "There are 300 days of sunshine each year."
In addition to the clear skies for observation, Manning says her astronomy Summer Study Abroad students who spent the month of May in Greece benefited greatly from immersing themselves in the subject and getting a deeper understanding because of it.
"We have class in the morning, lab in the afternoon and at night we go out and look at the stars. We have this continued conversation going on during the week," Manning says.
The island, which was transformed by a huge volcanic eruption 3,600 years ago, also provides students with natural elements for understanding the makeup of planets. Manning says being able to observe high and low tides on the island makes it easier to understand the concept of tidal heating on the moons of Jupiter. Another example: Students know the core of the Earth consists of molten lava, but studying the concept in Santorini makes it seem more real.
"There is an active volcano where you can put your hand over the heat vent and feel the warm, moist air coming out from the inside of the earth," Manning says. "It is something they can see."
Astronomy student Bjorn Solberg '13 says in addition to getting to immerse himself in a culture, the historical context of where they were studying astronomy was not lost on his class.
"I’m staring at the stars while on a beach where the ancient Greeks were planning out mapping stars way before everyone else," Solberg says.
Moon photo by Evan T. Marsolek '13, taken through a telescope on Santorini.
Person with a telescope photo by Brittni Hagberg '13.