Online reading assignment: the Milky Way (NC campus)

Astronomy 210, fall 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 and spiral arm structure and 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.
"That the Milky Way contains approximately 100–400 billion stars. And planets."

"I like the idea of dark matter. Not so much because of what we think it is, but because of the fact that we don't know. It's cool to think that there's still things out there that we just don't understand."

"Spiral galaxies are beautiful! The arms are cool to look at."

"The Milky Way and where we are located inside of it and what it consists of. This was interesting because seeing it in the night sky you can honestly look at it for hours, and it is good to know more things about it."

"That gas and dust is blocking the full view of the Milky Way because we can't really tell how big it is."

"I thought it was fascinating that our galaxy cannibalizes its brethren. Brutal."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"I didn't really understand the how and why of the Milky Way's spiral arms. Why does the Milky Way spiral outward?"

"How does dark matter hold the Milky Way together, but doesn't emit any type of light?"

"I didn't understand how distances to globular clusters are determined."

"It makes sense that gravity would have to be what's keeping the Milky Way together, but how can it be determined that it is from the dark matter in the galaxy and not another source."

"I don't understand how we find our location in reference to the Milky Way."

Using the most powerful light-gathering telescopes in the darkest skies, up to how much of the stars in our entire galaxy can be observed from Earth?
1%.  ****** [6]
5%.  * [1]
10%.  *** [3]
50%.  **** [4]
100%.  ******* [7]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  *** [3]

If you did not have access to a mirror while camping, what could you do to find out whether or not you're having a bad hair day?
"Ask someone."

"Find an area with still water so you can look at your reflection."

"Touch your head."

"I personally keep my hair short so I don't have to worry about that."

"I would just put a hat on--it's camping, it doesn't matter."

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"I saw this Saturn with a license plate frame that said, "Touch my Saturn, I'll kick Uranus." I lol'ed."

"Class has been fun this semester ^ ^." (You're welcome.)

"I want a star party."

"What does the fox say?" (This. This is what the fox says.).

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