Online reading assignment: runaway planets, jovian planets, and dwarf planets (oh my!) (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 runaway planets (Venus and Mars), jovian planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune), and dwarf planets (and the International Astronomy Union classification scheme).

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 specifics of the other planets in our solar system, because I am tired of learning about Earth, and I would like to know about what else is out there."

"The IAU rules for classifying solar system objects, because it's interesting how scientists determine if something is a planet or not."

"The video of Saturn that used NASA footage was beautiful."

"Why the core of a planet like Uranus would be cooler, like a baby bottle we are trying to cool by shaking it. Awesome example."
Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"Why the core of Uranus is colder than Neptune. I don't understand how Uranus could be impacted with so much force that its axis would change position."

"How the atmospheres of the jovian planets differ so much."

"How they determine if something is a dwarf planet or a planet."

"How Earth is the only planet, that we know of, that supports life. How is it that Earth evolved into this place that is so perfect for so many different types of life, yet some of the other planets have similar components, gases and atoms, that are capable of supporting/becoming life--but they didn't and haven't? Why?"
Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"Will the Final Exam suck my grade down to a bottomless pit like a black hole?" (Your total points so far, including the second midterm are posted online. And no, you can only gain points from here on out, in order to raise your grade.)

"At this stage all I can say is thank you. Perhaps you don't see it, but there aren't many teachers like you any more. I'm really glad I decided to take this class." (It's not me, it's the subject matter. Astronomy. ASTRONOMY RULES.)

"Do you believe Pluto should be a planet? I'm a 90's kid--I have to believe Pluto is a planet." (One day, in the future, your children will call you old-fashioned for doing so.)

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