Online reading assignment: medium-mass stars, massive stars, neutron stars and black holes (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 the evolution of medium-mass stars, massive stars, and on neutron stars and black holes.

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.
"Expansion cooling was really cool! I think its awesome how a star can go from small to medium, to large, to super huge and then go boom! Supernova. It made me think of when you blow bubbles with chewing gum, once they get big enough they pop!"

"Space seems like an unforgiving place for a star. You die alone or you go out with a bang and take out other stars."

"I had always assumed, incorrectly, that a star is simply what it is. For instance, a white dwarf or a red giant--born a certain way and die in that same category--but this is incorrect. Stars go through changes, they evolve over time--like all living things. This fact helps to make the complex subject of stars more approachable."

"The death of stars, for no particular reason."

"'You, and the planet Earth, began as stardust and will end as stardust.' I found it to be interesting because its crazy to think that the world we live in will one day be gone. And what I found to be more crazy: how they worded that we as well started off as stardust. :("

"Black holes, because they're kind of a scary to think about and I didn't know too much about what they really are before reading about it!"

"The concept of black holes, and how if you jumped into one you would seem to be moving very slow by an outside observer."
Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"Recalling the differences between the stars: supergiants, nova, giants, white dwarfs... When I read them I feel I understand how they are all defined, but as I read the review questions it's like--OMG--what's this? :( More study, more memorizing. :)"

"How the companion star thing with supernovas worked."

"Differences between the types of supernova. It will be hard to memorize what produces each type."

"Black holes. Those are always confusing."
The first rule of astronomy class is...
"Don't talk about astronomy class." (Total of eight similar responses.)

"Have fun!"

"Always have pancakes =)"

"Don't do acid in class."

"Respect P-dog."

"Make sure that you don't get P-dog so mad that he collapses and explodes like a supernova. :p"

"Be able to explain your answers--not just if there's a right or wrong answer :/"

"Don't jump into any black holes."

"We are all apart of this universe we are studying and observing."

"Always try our best."
Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"What are good ways to memorizing the different stars and the different stages? Will we have to memorize the different types of novas?"(There will be two separate in-class activities on the different stages of stars, and on novae and type Ia supernovae of white dwarfs with close companion stars. Although not a substitute for reading the textbook, these in-class activities will be a good outline for review.)

"You've seen the movie Sunshine, right? I would recommend it if you haven't." (We already showed a clip from that movie in class!)

"Black hole or supernova--which would you prefer to witness, assuming you could survive both?" (A supernova, as you would then be able to report on what you experienced. Because even if you could survive falling into the event horizon of a black hole, you would never be able to communicate your experience to the rest of the universe.)

"What would be the best way to take notes in your class?" (Download the lecture slides, and make sure to preview the online presentation notes for the slides in connection with the textbook chapters, so you have at least a passing familiarity with the subject content. Then when we go over the presentation in class, you can concentrate on asking questions, and on taking notes on additional information in class not already covered in the online presentation notes.)

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