Online reading assignment: the Milky Way (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 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.
"How the mass holding the Milky Way together can not really be seen by anything."

"How the location of the Milky Way center was determined."

"I'm just excited to learn more about our galaxy. We always hear so much about our solar system you can forget we're just one small part of a much bigger structure."

"It's pretty cool that stars form in spiral arms. It reminds me of the game mass effect and how the stars look in that game. That is why it is personally interesting to me."

"The Milky Way's gravitational pull is spread evenly throughout and doesn't change according to stars being closer or further away from the center. It's interesting because I never knew anything about the Milky Way."

"I found dark matter interesting just because it is so awesome."

"'Blinking' stars are the ones that are unstable and fluctuate in size and brightness."

"Reading about the spiral arms of the Milky Way and how luminous stars are continuously dying and being born again are what create the spiral arms."

"I was aware of the super massive black hole in the center of the Milky Way, but I did not know about the dark the halo and the dark matter that surround our galaxy, and the great influence it has."

"How our galaxy flattened out over time due to its rotation."
Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"Dark matter."

"How the Milky Way could swallow up neighboring dwarf galaxies. Since wouldn't the Milky Way explode?"

"Where the universe came from or the galaxy. Did the gases always exist? If they did, how could they exist when nothing existed? But if they existed that means that something existed and something ignited the gases. Woah."

"Density waves are confusing. Are they waves or arms?"

"I also found dark matter confusing. I just need to hear you explain it."

"So how does dark matter play a role with the Milky Way? Like what does it exactly do? I need a little more clarification on that."

"Nothing was too confusing for me, it was pretty laid back shies."

"I still don't understand why star formation and compression causes the spiral shape! I understand that the young stars would be out towards the edges but what causes the arms?"

"I'm still trying to understand how distances are determined. I know about parallax and spectroscopic parallax. Now I'm learning about Cepheid variables. I understand there will be other ways of determining distance in future chapters. I'm also understanding density wave theory of spiral arms."
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." (10 responses.)

"Feel my hair." (4 responses.)

"Look at your shadow." (4 responses.)

"Ask a friend." (3 responses.)

"Gel." (1 response.)
Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"A quiz the first day back from break? Really? It couldn't be pushed to at least Thursday? You're as cold as ice, P-dog." (Yeah--not just cold, but stone cold.)

"If the Milky Way is over 13 billion years old, and the big bang was only 13.5 billion years ago, does that mean the Milky Way was formed soon after the big bang?" (Yes, although the specific numbers are constantly being revised, some parts of the Milky Way formed not that long after the big bang.)

"Will you show my question in class?" (Consider it done.)

No comments: