Online reading assignment: the Milky Way (SLO 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 Milky Way's shape, size and composition, spiral arm structure and formation, and the history of its formation.

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.
"Because of the interstellar medium of gas and dust between stars, we can only see a portion of a presumably larger Milky Way disk."

"The way the Milky Way keeps its spiral arms, because I knew it was a spiral galaxy, but I never knew the reason why."

"Persistence of vision explaining spiral arms, looks cool."

"Crazy that metals come from stardust. That we are made from it and almost everything in the galaxy is as well...it's like constant recycling."

"The history of the Milky Way Galaxy--because I was raised in a fairly conservative, religious environment in which many explanations as to why things happened consisted of 'because God did it.' I like to know how and why things work and where scientists believe they have come from. Though theories such as that represented in the monolithic collapse model may be incomplete, at least such potential explanations are based on astronomers' gathering observations and testing hypotheses."
Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"The mass of a galaxy--how can we measure such a vast thing?"

"Global clusters positions, and not being able to see their parallax. Is this because the interstellar medium?"

"This chapter is nuts."
If you did not have access to a mirror, what could you do to find out whether or not you're having a bad hair day while camping?
"Look at the reflection in water/cell phone/glasses." (14 responses.)

"Feel my hair." (5 responses.)

"Ask a friend." (5 responses.)

"Take a picture with a camera/smartphone."
Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"When will we get to visit the Bowen Observatory next?" (Immediately after class on November 28--weather permitting, of course.)

"My mind is officially blown." (Then I am doing my job correctly.)

"How high does your grade have to be to not take the final exam? Would your grade drop from not taking it or taking it and getting a bad grade?" (Your course points are always computed as a raw total, and not as an average, so it will never decrease. Whatever your total points are just before taking the final exam will be your course grade if you do not take it.)

"How can I do better in this class? Don't B.S. me P-dog!" (You should go through the flashcard questions while reading through the textbook, as well as the archived quizzes and exams for practice, and discuss your responses with me after class, during office hours, or via e-mail.)

"What was the coolest Halloween costume you ever had?" (When Mrs. P-dog and I won a first-place Madonna Inn bakery cake for the Madonnaween costume contest a few years ago.)

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