Online reading assignment: Milky Way history, big bang clues (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 history of the Milky Way and big bang clues, and a comic strip adaptation of of Neil deGrasse Tyson's "The Most Astounding Fact" 2008 interview for TIME magazine, and Minute Physics' video explanation of Olbers' paradox.

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.
"Gold being formed in ancient massive stars--I always thought it was formed geologically."

"The one thing that I have always remembered from astronomy when I was younger is that light travels at a certain rate. So that we might still be seeing a star from Earth but that in actuality that star could have exploded but we just haven't seen it yet. I thought this was cool and still do, but it really confused me about Star Wars and light speed."

"Honestly all of it was super-interesting. But the most interesting part was how what we see when we look in the night sky is actually from millions to billions of years ago. 'Telescopes are time machines!' Ha ha."

"I found it really interesting learning about the Hubble law, how it helps give evidence that the universe is expanding, and to estimate the distance to a galaxy."

"I really enjoyed the comic strip about coming from the same atoms that make up the stars in the sky and that we are all apart of this universe. Blew. My. Mind."

"So apparently space is pretty dirty? Wow, it's a dirty lil' thang."

"I still find it interesting how vast the universe is--with the edge-center problem, it's crazy to think that we still completely don't know what's out there."

"I thought it was interesting that older stars are metal-poor and newer stars are metal=rich when it is the opposite for our landscape on Earth."

"Why the night sky is dark and not bright, because I had always believe because there was no sunlight lays going through our atmosphere at night."

"I thought that the big bang was something that started in the center of the universe, but i found it interesting that it is everywhere and un mappable. It is a spiritual kind of answer."

"I thought it was interesting that the space gets dirtier over time. Makes me think of our cars, over time they get dirty if you do not bring the through the car wash."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"How do we think we know what the Milky Way is like if we are in it?"

"I'm confused by the relation between the amount of metal in a star with its orbit in the Milky Way. How the amount affects whether the orbit is tilted or disk-shaped, and how scientists came to that conclusion. Also I'm confused about what part the monolithic collapse plays in the shape of a stars orbit."

"The most confusing part of the reading was how the universe is constantly expanding. I think its just hard to wrap my mind around."

"The presentation confused me with the multiple-mergers section at the end. I kept rereading it thinking eventually it would make sense, but it never quite clicked into place for me."

"How the universe has no edge-center--how can something be infinite?"

"I found the process of metal rich and less metal rich stars confusing. I found this confusing due to the how with age the star increases with metal in its outer layers instead of its core like young stars."

"I thought that the quote about every atom in our bodies are from stars that have exploded in the past. How did these atoms get into our bodies? Or is it just a matter of time that this has happened?"

"The idea of monolithic collapse confuses me--how does a galaxy collapse yet the universe expands?"

"I still don't quite understand how stars are inside of us."

"How can younger stars have more metal than older stars?"

Indicate how the amount of these elements in the universe have changed over time.
(Only correct responses shown.)
Hydrogen: decreased [68%]
Metals (elements heavier than hydrogen and helium): increased [86%]

The outermost layers of __________ are more abundant in metals (elements heavier than hydrogen and helium).
extremely old stars that formed a long time ago.  ****** [6]
young stars that formed very recently.  ********************** [22]
(There is a tie.)  [0]
(Neither, as stars cannot have metals.)  [0]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  [0]

Indicate what produced these elements.
(Only correct responses shown.)
Helium in the sun's core: the sun [61%]
Carbon in your body: another star, in the past [75%]
Calcium in your bones: another star, in the past [71%]
Iron in your blood: another star, in the past [79%]
Gold and silver from mines: another star, in the past [57%]

People breaking up a relationship are most likely to update their Facebook status to "single":
on Valentine's Day.  ***** [5]
during spring break.  ********************* [21]
just after Thanksgiving.  ** [2]
on Christmas Day.  [0]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  [0]

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"Are you a fan of the show Big Bang Theory? I'm not." (Yeah, not a fan either--Big Bang Theory shows people with autism spectrum disorders in order to make fun of them. Community shows how people with autism spectrum disorders have fun. Pop pop!)

"I'm glad that the mommy elephant still has her trunk. Your trees in the forest analogy scared me--I don't want to get lost in a forest."

"What does the final cover?" (The study guide for the Final Exam is posted in the last week announcements.)

"How do you organize a party in space? You 'planet.' **Ba-dum-chhh**"

"When was the last time you didn't have facial hair? When you were 12?" (I grew it out 24 years ago--you do the math.)

"I think we should have food--in class--as some form of a celebration for the end of the year. But you know as well as I do that only a teacher can organize that kind of a thing. No one will listen to me!"

"I always wonder if the instructors aren't just as excited for summer break as the students." (I am. The only downside is that Mrs. P-dog doesn't get the summer off like I do.)

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