For those of you who don’t know him, Artie Aardvark is my curious little aardvark friend who is the mascot for our radio astronomy group. He likes to tag along on astronomy adventures and write about them in a far cuter way than I ever could. Take it away, Artie!
Wow it’s a good life being an astronomy project’s mascot- the astronomers had a conference here in Santorini and they brought be along! This is the view from the conference center. I think it might be the prettiest place in the world to have a conference.
Now you can tell astronomers really like what they do because they can visit a beautiful place like Santorini but sit inside all day. They are that interested in learning about what everyone else is doing! For example, I really liked Yvette’s talk the very first day about a black hole eating a star, and a lot of other people were interested and asked her a lot of questions the rest of the week about it.
Hey look, they’re talking about me now! Time to pay extra close attention!
After the talks are done though, it’s time to explore Santorini! I learned while here that the cliff edge we are on is actually a special cliff edge, known as a caldera. A caldera is when a giant volcano with a lot of magma erupts and collapses to form a giant crater- and the current one was formed about 3,600 years ago in a giant eruption! Yikes!
The volcano that formed Santorini is still active. It’s in the middle of the bay and you can go visit it, and this is what the astronomers decide to do during their free time. I’m a little nervous to join them but excited to climb a real volcano.
The volcano island is known as Nea Kameni, and I need to hop on a boat to get there…
The boat ride takes a little while, but I pass the time networking with the other astronomers- it is a conference after all!
But finally we make it to the top! What a view!
While at the top, I am also amazed at the volcanic crater you can see here. I learned from the tour guide that Nea Kameni is only 300 years old, as people saw it rising from the ocean during an eruption in 1707. The last time there was an eruption here was in 1950, but there were a few little earthquakes just two years ago.
I don’t think it’s a very nice place for an aardvark to live- this burrow was too hot to enter because of the geothermal heat!
No one lives here at all, actually, but there is a lot of monitoring equipment around the island. When the last bunch of little earthquakes happened in 2011 they measured the island rose about ten centimeters out of the sea. Yikes! Things have been quiet for the last year or two, but there will be another eruption some day. I hope the geologists are right and it will be just a small one, because Santorini is very pretty as it is now if you ask me.
To see what a big eruption of the volcano could do I also visited a town that got buried during the really big eruption 3,600 years ago called Akrotiri. Archeologists first discovered the site in 1967, and they have only excavated a fraction of the site! Here I am looking at a few pots which have just been excavated. I am amazed to think that so many things were buried under ash thousands of years ago,and no one has looked at them until now. I decided archeologists are like astronomers because both discover new things and hope those new things will teach us more about the world we live in.
I also learned that Akrotiri was a very big town when the eruption happened- the archeologists estimate about 3,500 Minoan people lived here, and they had things like three story houses and indoor plumbing even in 1500 BC. And modern humans like to think they’re so advanced!
The other interesting thing about Akrotiri is they never found any people who died during the eruption. They did find signs of earthquakes before the eruption covered the buildings though, like the smashed-up staircase here, so they think the people knew to leave Akrotiri before the eruption happened. Because they were so advanced though some people say Akrotiri is the lost city of Atlantis- I don’t know if that’s true, but it is fun to think about.
I had a really good time in Santorini, both seeing the sites and meeting all the astronomers!