Online reading assignment: history of astronomy, telescope powers (SLO campus)

Astronomy 210, spring semester 2014
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 problems caused by the atmosphere for telescope observing, Earth, and the impacted worlds: the moon, and Mercury.

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.
"Planets have retrograde motion, because Earth is temporarily passing them as they are all at different different speeds and distances."

"I found it interesting that the higher up you put a telescope, the clearer in image will be. The example used in the power point of trying to look up at the sky while under water was a great example and helped me understand the concept. I also found it interesting that the infrared telescope Herschel Space Observatory was cooled to -453° F."

"I think the observatories on Mauna Kea in Hawaii are pretty cool. I think it is pretty cool because out of all the places is the world it is on the Big Island."

"It was really cool learning about why stars twinkle. I never thought about it really, so it was cool to learn a fact about that."

"I have always wondered about why stars twinkle. I remember a time not to long ago someone told me that they twinkle because of particles in the air. It makes much more sense that it is turbulence. I feel much better now knowing the real reason."
"I think its cool that there are telescopes out there that can reduce twinkling."

"Astronomers no longer have to sit outside on top of a freezing cold mountain, with technology such as CCDs--astronomers can record data from inside a room. I guess I had never thought about astronomers not having that option."

"How our planet has the hottest core. I always assumed that planets like Mars would have a hotter core."

"What was the most interesting to me was in the presentation how it talked about the mass of the planets and how hot their cores are and that the hotter the core the more geological activity. The analogy between Earth and Mercury as a turkey and Cornish hen made it make sense to me. I was wondering though why does mercury have the coldest core when it's closest to the sun. I would think that mercury would be hot since it's close to the sun. I guess it's surface is hot obviously but then why not it's core?"

"I found the adaptive optics interesting because I am highly interested in the idea around stars' twinkling. I think its amazing they have the technology to adjust the image so one can see the size and shape of the star without the effects of twinkling."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"The large impact hypothesis was confusing to me. I just really did not understand it."

"I found it confusing on the carbon dioxide and how Earth takes it in and takes it out. Also it confused me about the moon, and how to identify its features from oldest to youngest."

"I haven't quite yet found anything that is particularly confusing. I just need to review before the test."

"Just how they can draw up these hypothesis. It's crazy how they are able to know how much iron is in Mercury without having to go there."

"The video link to the 'Light' video on Vimeo confused me and also scared me a little bit (in a comical sense :D)"

"I was really confused by the difference between active optics and adaptive optics. I don't really understand how either of them work other than they are telescopes that are moved by computers. I couldn't understand the explanation that described what either of them are. I also really did not understand how to tell what features on the moon and mercury were oldest and youngest. I feel like I was missing something because I was that clueless about it. Are we just supposed to be able to tell from the photos? Because I could not."

Stars to appear to "twinkle" in the night sky because of:
"Twinkling is caused by turbulence in Earth's atmosphere, and a star near the horizon, where you look through more air, will twinkle more then a star overhead."

"The air in our sky and its affects on the light's path to our eyes. The turbulence in the sky can cause the light to bend and ultimately distort our vision of the sky above."

"Because we live under an 'ocean of air.' Any disturbance in the atmosphere distorts the view of the night sky, causing 'twinkling.'"

A large modern optical telescope in outer space would have images with better __________ than a comparable ground-based telescope.
brightness.   *** [3]
resolution.  ******************* [19]
magnification.   [0]
(None of the above choices.)  [0]
(Two of the above choices.)  **** [4]
(All of the above choices.)  ************ [12]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  ** [2]

Identify how carbon dioxide enters and how it is taken out of Earth's atmosphere. (Only correct responses shown.)
Enters from: volcanoes [60%]
Taken out by: oceans [72%]

Identify the oldest (longest ago) to the youngest (most recent) features on the moon. (Only correct responses shown.)
Craters partially filled in with flat lava plains: oldest (formed longest ago) [48%]
Flat lava plains: middle [35%]
Craters on top of flat lava plains: youngest (formed most recently) [70%]

Identify the oldest (longest ago) to the youngest (most recent) features on Mercury. (Only correct responses shown.)
Large crater basins: oldest (formed longest ago) [54%]
Lava-filled lowlands: middle [65%]
Long curving ridges: youngest (formed most recently) [68%]

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"I am having a hard time with all of the new terms. I am not the type of person that can just read 20 vocabulary words in a textbook and understand them. I need to hear them used in class and explained a little better." (An astronomy education researcher once counted the number of glossary words in a one-semester astronomy textbook, and compared it to the number of vocabulary words in a first-semester Spanish language textbook. Guess which had more new words? But yes, we'll be sure to explain and use them properly in class.)

"I feel so insanely overwhelmed with the amount of content in the assigned reading and presentations for this week. Plus I still have to study for the quiz which is about totally different stuff! I'm stressing out hardcore. Help :O" (You've already gone through and answered everything from the flashcard question packet, which is more than nearly everyone else in this class has done to prepare for this quiz, so I think you'll be okay.)

"I am really enjoying the class so far this semester. I am only taking it for a requirement but it has been so much better than that." (Cool. Cool cool cool.)

"P-dog, do you have a dog? If so, is its name D-dog?" (Mrs. P-dog's dog's name is Briquetta, aka "Bricky," "Bricktober," and "Brickhouse." I'm actually more of a cat person.)

"Do you offer extra credit?" (Yes. Later this semester. When you'll need it.)

"You have a hearing aid? If so do you like it?" (It's actually a conduction hearing device to channel sound to my other (good) ear. I hate it, but it's better than nothing. #fml But I do get to claim being the world's deafest swing DJ.)

"You have the same name as my sister. My sister's name is Priscilla and my dad calls her P-dog as a nickname, I swear I didn't make that up."

"Finding the locations of the planets. It was not in the textbook anywhere for me to practice." (That's what the flashcard question packet is for.)

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