Online reading assignment: eclipses, history of astronomy (NC campus)

Astronomy 210, spring semester 2013
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 eclipses, and an preliminary overview of the history of astronomy.

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.
"Solar eclipses, because I never knew what exactly happened until I finished the reading."

"Eclipses, because I haven't got to experience one for myself, so it was cool to learn how they are created."

"When a solar eclipse occurs, it is the sun that is being covered up by the moon. I always thought the opposite."

"How in a total lunar eclipse the moon turns a copper-red color. The reason why I found this interesting is because the moon has to be full, the moon has to be in Earth's umbra, and the reason why it is red is because the Earth's sunsets and sunrises illuminate the moon during totality and makes it glow coppery red."

"For almost 2,000 years astronomers accepted Aristotle and Ptolemy's theories that the universe was perfect and that heavenly objects traveled at a constant speed in circular paths. I had always thought the scientific method was older than it really was."

"The Copernican model being wrong, but the Copernican hypothesis being right--the model was wrong because it assumed everything moved in a uniform way; the hypothesis was right because it stated that the planets revolved around the sun, not Earth. That was pretty interesting."

"Retrograde motion--I have a friend who blames most 'bad' things on when 'Mercury is in retrograde.'"

"How to pronounce Ptolemy's name correctly, so there's something."
Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"That umbra and penumbra referred to the object making the shadow. So, in a total solar eclipse, you are standing in the moon's umbra."

"From all my studies in the social sciences, hypothesis comes before theory, and empirical means a large collection of evidence leading to acceptance of the studies as fact, or fiction. I don't get that from this reading."

"Nothing in this reading was all that confusing. At least I don't think there was anything that totally had me scratching my head."

"The history part was confusing, because history is boring :)"

"Copernicus' idea about how Earth moves around the sun faster than planets farther away from the sun is a little confusing, probably because I need it to be explained in a simpler way."

"Why during a lunar eclipse does the moon look reddish/copper-colored?"
Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"Will you please explain Starry Night™ setup/usage...I'm clueless!" (This CD-ROM is included with new version of the textbook, is unlocked and can be installed on any Mac/Windows computer with no restrictions (borrow it from a classmate). The *.snf data files can be downloaded from the course website for you to run on Starry Night™; just make sure your browser saves the file with the *.snf extension instead of the default (and incorrect) *.html extension.)

"Astronomy is dope." (Mmm-hmm, damn straight.)

"Is the textbook really necessary? Because I cannot afford it." (Starting especially with the history of astronomy section, we will be following the textbook closely. Study with a friend?)

"Could you give us the answer to the flashcard questions? It would be so much more helpful when studying." (As a matter of policy, answers to flashcard questions are not published nor released, but I would be more than willing to discuss your responses to flashcard questions that were not used in class, during posted office hours or an arranged appointment, just before/after lecture, or via e-mail.)

"Do we have to do group activities everyday?" (Nearly every class; and with different group members each time.)

"Why was Aristotle considered so great when he was so wrong on so many things?" (Because he was the first, and no one was willing or able to call him out back then.)

"Have long have you been swing dancing?" (Just look at this picture of me and Mrs. P-dog from over 12 years ago. Just look at it. This is also how we first met. At least, the way I remember it.)

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