Online reading assignment: fusion, nebulae, star cluster ages (NC campus)

Astronomy 210, fall semester 2012
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Students have a weekly online reading assignment (hosted by SurveyMonkey.com), where they answer questions based on reading their textbook, material covered in previous lectures, opinion questions, and/or asking (anonymous) questions or making (anonymous) comments. Full credit is given for completing the online reading assignment before next week's lecture, regardless if whether their answers are correct/incorrect. Selected results/questions/comments are addressed by the instructor at the start of the following lecture.

The following questions were asked on reading textbook chapters and previewing presentations on fusion, nebulae, and star cluster ages.

Selected/edited responses are given below.

Describe something you found interesting from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally interesting for you.
"The steps of how fusion works and how it influences how the stars are."

"Stars have layers, and that the layers below support the ones above."

"Only main sequence stars follow the mass-luminosity relation because I would have thought that the giants and supergiants would follow due to their size."

"Any other nebulae colors besides pink, blue, black/brown seen in the outer space whether in a real or simulated view are either enhanced or false colors."

"Blue photons are scattered more easily than longer wavelengths and they enter you eyes producing the blue color we see in the sky. I've always been curious why the sky appears blue."

"The different stages of stars, also how long they can live."

"Stars we see now are not the same stars that our ancestors beheld. Stars live and die. This seems to be the one constant in life. Stars are, in a very real sense, animate beings. I find this extraordinary."
Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"Giant stars are large in diameter but not much larger in mass. I thought that would go hand-in-hand."

"Fusion. I don't understand why its so difficult to achieve."

"When talking about a star's age, is that a guess? It seems to me that it just has to be a really good guess."
Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"The review class we had really helped me with the midterm. :)" (Awesome.)

How do you come up with all of these crazy ways of explaining things? Like the house party model! It's all really entertaining while at the same time informative." (To quote Muriel Rukeyser from "The Speed of Darkness" (1968), "The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms." For me, stories and analogies are a powerful and compelling tool to understand complex concepts in science, and hopefully for you as well.)

"In one of the previous presentations you wrote, 'You may be the last generation of students that will actually understand these analogies.' Why?" (The model of magnetic fields trapping and stagnating convective granulation flow on the sun is analogous to holding a magnet next to a cathode-ray tube (CRT) television--which definitely does not work the same way for magnets and modern flat-screen televisions! As well as the incandescent light bulb model for the cooler and darker sunspots on the photosphere of the sun, which will soon be replaced by light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs...)

"What purpose do all of the stars have? Are they crucial to the universe as a whole?" (As we will see in a later presentation, we ourselves are made of atoms produced by earlier generations of stars. (Carl Sagan: "We're made of star-stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.")

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