Online reading assignment: runaway planets, jovian planets, and dwarf planets (oh my!) (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 runaway planets (Venus and Mars), jovian planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune), and the dwarf planets (and the International Astronomy Union classification scheme).

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 am surprised that Mars has such a thin atmosphere, and that it is actually a cold and barren planet, as opposed to what films show it, such as John Carter of Mars, as a desert world with an arid climate."

"Personally, I liked the section on Venus where it talked about the probes landing on the surface (though not for very long). I actually didn't know (or didn't remember) that we landed on Venus."

"The active colorful weather on Jupiter and hazy weather on Saturn is caused by the heat and sunlight, which is supercool."

"That you would fall through the atmosphere of Jupiter there wouldnt be a sudden boundary between liquid and gas."

"I found the circumstances that created today's Mars and Venus very interesting. It shows just lucky Earth is to have just the right amount of everything."

"That Venus was completely covered in lava."

"How the other terrestrial planets had broken or incomplete cycles, while Earth's cycle was complete."

"Neptune, Jupiter, Uranus, and Saturn are called the jovian planets, and how each don't have a surface of any kind. Thought that all planets had a surface."

"Learning about pluto, because when I was younger Pluto was banned and I had no idea why so it was cool."

"How we distinguish what is a planet and what is not. I never understood why Pluto was all of a sudden not a planet, and was actually kind of bummed out about it. But after doing the reading it makes more sense now."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"Jupiter's cloud belts and zones."

"Still trying to figure out why Pluto isn't considered a planet now after all these years."

"If Pluto orbits the sun, and it's classified as a dwarf planet, what's the difference? I would think that if it orbits our sun, it has moons, and it was once calssified as a planet, why go to the trouble of re-classifiying it? Did something about it's composition change, or is it just the discovery of other objects similar in size that exist in the Kuiper belt?"

Identify the relative amounts of these characteristics for Venus, compared to Earth. (Only correct responses shown.)
Interior core heat, today: about the same as Earth [37%]
Geologic activity, today: less than Earth [34%]
Volcanic outgassing, up until now: about the same as Earth [31%]
Heat from the sun: more than Earth [83%]
Amount of atmosphere, today: more than Earth [71%]

Identify the relative amounts of these characteristics for Mars, compared to Earth. (Only correct responses shown.)
Interior core heat, today: less than Earth [74%]
Geologic activity, today: less than Earth [71%]
Volcanic outgassing, up until now: less than Earth [66%]
Heat from the sun: less than Earth [83%]
Amount of atmosphere, today: less than Earth [83%]

Which jovian planet has the coolest interior temperatures?
Jupiter (most massive).   ****** [6]
Saturn (most prominent rings).   [0]
Uranus (least active weather patterns).   ************* [12]
Neptune (farthest from the sun).   ************* [13]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)   **** [4]

I believe Pluto should be a planet.
Strongly disagree.   ** [2]
Disagree.   **** [4]
Neutral.   ************ [12]
Agree.   ************ [12]
Strongly Agree.   ***** [5]

Briefly explain your answer to the previous question (whether Pluto should be a planet).
"Well at least they gave it 'planet' in the dwarf planet title."

"A dwarf planet is still a planet to me."

"Well, I don't really care. (Probably not a smart thing to say in a review for an astronomy class.) I don't think that I would take any sort of issue with Pluto being a plant or not. I don't think that it is that important."

"I think it should be a planet mainly because I grew up thinking it was for a long time, however I'm interested on why after so many years they finally considered to not be a planet. I'm mainly curious on the 'qualifications' a planet should have to be considered a plant."

"I don't really care all that much."

"We're hurting Pluto's feelings. Come on, people."

"Taking Pluto off the list of planets is unfair. The new definition of planet relies on information (mass, shape) thhat wasn't known in earlier times."

"Pluto has the qualities of a dwarf planet, but should be still considered a planet because how would you feel if you got kicked out of the solar system because you weren't 'big enough?'"

"Pluto should be a planet because once you say something is a planet there are no take-backs."

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"Why isn't there an 'average amount' option under the 'How much time did you take for reading?' question?" (Isn't that what the "not too much or too little" choice is for?)

"How many dwarf planets are there that could be considered a planet in our solar system?" (There are five definite dwarf planets so far, and maybe 20 more that could be classified as dwarf planets once we know more information about them.)

"If you had the opportunity to be one of the first people to colonize a planet would you?" (Meh. I'm not sure Mrs. P-dog would be up for that.)

"Do you think Pluto should or shouldn't be a planet, and why?" (Did we not discuss this on the first day of class? I do have strong opinions on this topic.)

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