Office of International Programs


From Stonehenge to the Prime Meridian - Astronomy in Great Britain

Spring Break: March 9-17, 2018

AST 100 Astronomy (3 credits)


Learn astronomy and visit historical astronomical sites in England in this one-week travel course. Visit Stonehenge and nearby, even larger Avebury; see the Royal Greenwich Observatory (home of the Prime Meridian of longitude); the house where William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus in 1781; the observatory of Normal Lockyer, who discovered the element helium in the Sun in 1868, a decade before it was known on Earth!

We will have the historic city of Winchester-- ancient capital of Wessex (Saxon England) and home to the famous Winchester Cathedral and the Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium-- as our base. From there we shall take day trips to London, Bath, and other astronomically important sites. At each of these places we'll have tours and lectures about the important astronomical significance of the work done there.

Tower Bridge


Jerry LaSala is Professor and Chair of Physics and Director of the Southworth Planetarium at the University of Southern Maine. He holds a BA in Astronomy and Physics from Yale University, an MS in Physics from Rutgers, and a PhD in Physics from Dartmouth. He has taught at USM since 1987; before that he taught at the College of Wooster, Dartmouth, and Lebanon College. He has traveled extensively in Great Britain and has been a visiting scientist at Cambridge University, Oxford University, and the Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium. He is a member of the American Astronomical Society and the International Astronomical Union. He also taught summer enrichment courses for high school students at Phillips Exeter Academy.

Dr. Julie Ziffer, Professor of Physics and recognized asteroid expert, was a member of the research team that discovered water ice on the asteroid 24 Themis. In 2012, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) named the asteroid 7909 "Ziffer" in her honor. The IAU bestows this distinction on people who have either attained great prominence in their fields or who have contributed significantly to humanity's understanding of our Universe. Her current research interests focus on the surface composition of asteroids and comets. Utilizing national and space telescopes, Dr. Ziffer's research furthers our understanding of the nature and extent of water in our Solar System.


The application deadline is November 3, 2017, along with a $200 deposit. *Priority will be given to applications received by October 20.

A complete application includes all of the following:

  • Signed, completed application form*
  • $200 non-refundable deposit (applied to the program cost)
  • Typed 200-word essay
  • A letter of recommendation from a faculty member or academic advisor (recommendation cannot come from the faculty member leading the program)
  • Official copy of USM academic transcript

Incomplete applications will not be accepted. You will be notified by e-mail of your application status. If your application is not accepted, the nonrefundable deposit will be returned. If the program is canceled for any reason by the USM, all deposits will be returned.

*If you are having trouble downloading the application, please contact us at (207) 780-4959 or and we will send you one. You may also want to try upgrading to the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Tuition and Fees

The program fee is estimated to be between $2,600-$2,700. This fee includes accommodation, roundtrip airfare from Boston, scheduled in-country travel, site visits, field trips, some meals, and iNext's comprehensive insurance plan. Three credits of tuition and fees are an additional cost.

Not included in the program fee is the cost of tuition, fees, books, academic supplies, lunches and dinners in London, or other personal expenses. Three credits of tuition is $759 plus $84 for the university unified fee. All participants on USM travel programs receive the in-state tuition rate regardless of residency.

Please visit the Student Financial Services website for complete information on tuition and fees.

All participants will be automatically registered for a payment plan. The $200 deposit will go toward the cost of the program and the remaining balance will be due as follows:

50% of the balance due February TBD
Remaining balance due March TBD