Online reading assignment: the Milky Way (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 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.
"I found how we are able to accurately describe how to the Milky Way is shaped is pretty interesting seeing as how we are in it."

"I think dark matter is interesting. the fact that something has such a strong gravitational force but we can't see it."

"I thought that the fact that the birth of stars is triggered by density waves and then lead to the type II supernovae explosions that are just plain epic and hard to fathom for a human mind. Also the idea that they must continuously swallow nearby dwarf galaxies for it all to occur is just a trip! Perpetuation of life in cycles is just really interesting to me for some reason."

"I love the Milky Way! I still remember learning about it way back when I was in 1st grade! It's so beautiful when you look up in the night sky and see it, its magic! I think its interesting learning about it after admiring it for so many years."

"I always thought Nibbler's poop was what dark matter was, now my mind is blown haha."

"I thought it was interesting that the Milky Way was named because the greeks thought it was a milky river flowing through the night sky. I thought a similar thing when I was little."

"I think that the persistence of vision concept is pretty interesting. I've never really seen anything like that before."

"Something that was interesting was the fog model, this was interesting because I liked the visual aid."

"I found it really interesting that in the Milky Way's spiral arms, massive stars are born and die at certain times as they orbit which helps to create the illusion."

"Dark matter, it makes a great source of evil since it is an unknown form of matter. Its also crazy that it is still a fundamental problem of modern astronomy."

"Your 'P-dog' lights on your bike! That made me laugh so hard! 'They see me rollin...' Too funny!"

"I thought that the traffic jam example was really interesting. A lot of your 'real world' applications help things click for me."

"I found the MonkeyLectric rims really awesome! I would like to get some for my mom's bike to keep her safe (and look really awesome) when she is riding at night!"

"It was interesting to learn that the sun and our solar system are located near the edge of the disk of the Milky Way. I guess us Earthlings are pretty self-centered, since I've always just assumed we would be located in the central bulge."

"I didn't know our galaxy was so exceptional structurally or aesthetically."

"I had to look YMMV up on UrbanDictionary.com. I feel un-hip."

"I thought it was very interesting learning about the spiral arms. How they learn about them is locating the O-type and B-type stars, which are often found because they are really luminous and also easy to detect from great distance. I also found it interesting how the spiral arms are where star formation happens."

"I found that the spiral arm formation of the Milky Way was very interesting, and how they are being 'cut off' and are regrowing. I liked this comparison because I love starfish and it will be easy to remember."

"I thought it was interesting how we were able to determine that our galaxy has a disk shape."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"This is all very confusing to me, I'm not really understanding how the whole illusion called persistence of vision works. Or what this has to do with the Milky Way and stars, please more explanation needed."

"How is the spinning of the Milky Way relayed to the way light-up rims spin on cars?"

"I don't understand how globular clusters tell help us determine the shape of our galaxy."

"I've been gone for awhile so pretty much everything."

"I found the spiral density wave theory confusing. I am not completely sure how star formation occurs by gas clouds passing through spiral arms."

"I didn't find anything confusing."

In your experience, how much of the "Milky Way" (the band of faint stars across the celestial sphere) have you been able to see in the night sky?
As much as can be seen with the naked eye.  ******************* [19]
Not very much.  ************ 12]
Barely seen it.  **** [4]
(Never been able to see it.)  *** [3]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  [0]

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%.  ************ [12]
5%.  *** [3]
10%.  ************** [14]
50%.  *** [3]
100%.  ** [2]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  **** [4]

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?
"Find a still puddle of water."

"A spoon!"

"Ask a friendly squirrel! If it scurries away in horror, I'll know the answer..."

"To be honest I don't care, when I go camping I don't really care what I look like."

"I have the curliest hair ever. Every day is a bad hair day."

"Since no one goes camping alone (or should), just ask whoever you're with."

"Well, I don't brush my hair on a daily basis, so I'm always having a bad hair day."

"I'm never having a bad hair day. I have a shaved head, bro."

"If I really had some ridiculous reason to be worried about such issue, I would look in the lens mirror reflection of a friend's sunglasses."

"This question is irrelevant. My hair is always on point."

"Take a #selfie. Delete it if you're having a bad hair day, save it if it's a good hair day."

"I would look at the screen on my phone."

"I would feel around with my hands, I guess--honestly I like my hair messy."

Look at PimpStar Rims (*.html) for cars, or MonkeyLectric Rims (*.html) for bikes. Briefly explain how they work.
"Both consist of lightbulbs that flash and when put in motion create a patter or seemingly solid color. It like a fan, when the fan is not turned on you can see the propellers but once its in motion they all become a blur. Same with the lights on either car rims or bike wheels, the lights blur together due to the wheel's motion creating either a word or blurred effect (solid color, blue as in the example image)."

"The blinking lights can be timed to the speed of the wheel to light up at the right time to produce a pattern on the wheel."

"I'm not sure at all...through a computer?"

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"Did you get to see the lunar eclipse on Monday?" (Yes, but I almost missed seeing it. True story, bro.)

"Here's a really cool stabilized *.gif of the lunar eclipse from last night I found online." (Awesome.)

"When is our final and what time is it?" (Wednesday, May 21, 4:30-6:30 PM in this room. It's also marked on the course calendar.)

"How did you swoon Mrs. P-dog?" (With my swing dancing skills.)

"Is Quiz 8 really just 40 freebie points? If so, I'd like to give you a hug." (Well, you would just need to complete the education-research questionnaires during the last week of class. And psychic hugs only, please. PSYCHIC HUGS.)

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