Online reading assignment: atmosphere problems, Earth, the moon, Mercury (NC campus)

Astronomy 210, spring semester 2015
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.
"How the ocean soaks up the carbon dioxide emitted from volcanic eruptions and other natural sources. It helped how you used the analogy with the soda cans in the slides."

"The theory of how the moon was formed; I never thought of it as something that had 'run' into Earth."

"Earth's active crust and how it is constantly changing. It just blows me away to think of how amazing the planet we live in is! Just wish we, as a society, could care a little more."

"That NASA is using airplanes to gather images of space, especially because that program is based in San Jose, so close to home."

"The comparison to being underwater and Earth's atmosphere being essentially an ocean of air. I never thought of it that way but it makes sense."

"Now carbon dioxide enters and leaves Earth's atmosphere."

"All of it because I had taken an astronomy class back in the day, and I feel like I had never learned much about these topics."

"That planets have different kinds of atmospheres. It's weird to think that some plants don't even have atmospheres because of the way that they were created differently."

"I really liked learning about light pollution. I've personally noticed that the sky is so much more vivid in areas away from big cites. Even within our property the stars are much brighter than in downtown San Luis Obispo."

"The turkey/cornish game hen analogy is a great way to explain the difference in the sizes of the cores of Mercury, Earth and the moon. I'm not sure I would've understood if you had tried to explain it any other way."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"Atmospheric opacity and the electromagnetic spectrum is confusing for me to read. If we could go over how to read it exactly I would appreciate that."

"Everything confuses me."

"Tectonic plates, just because they're something I'm not super familiar with."

"I'm lost/guessing/need help!"

"I don't understand the chronology of features on the moon and Mercury (craters, mare, etc.)."

"Just need a little clarification on the the features of the moon."

"Adaptive optics--it's difficult for me to grasp things without a more physical understanding of what I'm trying to grasp."

"I am very lost on the telescope measurements from last class."

Stars to appear to "twinkle" in the night sky because of:
"Our view is obstructed by particles, air, and wind making the stars appear to twinkle."

"Atmospheric turbulence, which means when we look up into the sky we get a distorted view of the stars due to rippling in the atmosphere."

A large modern optical telescope in outer space would have images with better __________ than a comparable ground-based telescope.
brightness. ** [2]
resolution. ************* [13]
magnification. [11]
(None of the above choices.) [0]
(Two of the above choices.) * [1]
(All of the above choices.) ******* [7]
(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 atmosphere from: volcanoes [62%]
Taken out of atmosphere by: oceans [62%]

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) [38%]
Flat lava plains: middle [27%]
Craters on top of flat lava plains: youngest (formed most recently) [62%]

Identify the oldest (longest ago) to the youngest (most recent) features on Mercury.
(Only correct responses shown.)
Large crater basins: oldest (formed longest ago) [42%]
Lava-filled lowlands: middle [27%]
Long curving ridges: youngest (formed most recently) [38%]

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"Am I confused? Just wondering if I read this right: the moon was formed out of an collision that happened on Earth?" (Yes, that's what evidence currently suggests really happened!)

"I am liking the class style so far; the in-class activities usually help clear up the questions/problems I have in the homework."

"Can you teach us this stuff rather than having us read about it on our own?" (Well, depends if you were able to read it and get it on your own... But looking at a lot of the class' responses, we'll have to go through some of this extensively in class.)

"Will there be other observation nights at the North County telescope shelter? (Yes, tentatively on April 2, weather permitting.)

"The formation of stars gives off infrared energy, while the death of stars gives off x-rays and gamma rays. Why is this? (Stars form slowly as gravity gathers in gas and dust, and this heats it up to several thousands of degrees, releasing medium-energy photons such as infrared (think of charcoal briquette hotnesses). However, as we'll see later this semester, stars die catastrophically, releasing energy that heats it up to several millions of degrees, releasing higher energy photons such as x-rays and gamma rays (think of thermonuclear explosion hotnesses).)

"So...sound is not part of the electromagnetic spectrum because vibrations of the atoms in the atmosphere is what produces sound?" (Yes, that's why sound is different than light, which is vibrations of electromagnetic fields produced by charges like individual atoms, free electrons, electrons inside atoms, and electrons traveling up and down a metal antenna.)

"Star Wars or Star Trek? Do not take this question lightly." (*Does Jedi hand-wave* This is not the answer you're looking for. But then again, there's an "epic trailer" that might answer your question.)

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