Online reading assignment: the Milky Way (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 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 enjoyed learning how astronomers determine the shape of the milky way, and theories to why the arms exist."

"The lantern analogy regarding the shape of the galaxy we're in, and how we can determine that shape by looking at the Milky Way 'strip' across the night sky."

"That dark matter exists even though we don't know what it's made of."

"I found the bad-hair day example very interesting because just the simplicity of it made sense, spiral arms equal good hair and blob equals bad hair! Although I have a buzz cut so I cant really have a bad hair day unless I spontaneously lose my hair."

"That the spiral arms of the galaxy are just an illusion they are continuously being created."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"I am still confused about how and why the spiral arms continue to grow."

"I wasn't that confused with this section. My brain did have a hard time grasping the idea of dark matter."

"Radio wave maps."

"Finding the mass of the galaxy was pretty confusing, the text didn't word it very well."

"I found the PimpStar Rims confusing for two reasons:
  1. Would someone really drive around with something like that because that is just screaming to the world a bad message, and
  2. The way it works is interesting, but I can't quite grasp it, I have an idea but am uncertain."
"Where does dark matter come from and what is it?"

"How much of the Milky Way galaxy can be seen with the naked eye?"

"The spiral arms of galaxies--how they are created and how we know we have 'arms.'"

"The Milky Way kept being referred to as a disk, I'm not quite sure what that meant."

"I kind of got how to tell the distance of stars within the galaxy, but would like to get a bit more clarifying information on this."

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.  ************* [13]
Not very much.  ********** [10]
Barely seen it.  *** [3]
(Never been able to see it.)  ** [2]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  ** [2]

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%.  ***** [5]
5%.  **** [4]
10%.  ********* [9]
50%.  ******** [8]
100%.  [0]
(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?
"Have someone look at your hair for you and tell you how it is."

"Look into a still pond or a pool in a brook."

"I would grab a hair brush and french braid my hair to get it our of my face and stop bothering me."

"Eh, I would just rock it, camping is camping."

"You could look at your shadow on the ground, or feel it with your hands."

Look at PimpStar Rims (*.html) for cars, or MonkeyLectric Rims (*.html) for bikes. Briefly explain how they work.
"The lights cordinate when to turn on and off which when crossing our line of visions creates a pattern."

"Rapidly blinking lights can be coordinated to create patterns when swept across our field of view."

"The faster they spin the eye gets tricked and begins to see it as a still picture or light arrangement."

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"I always have a signal mirror with me when camping. Actually, if you want a cheap signal mirror just use an old CD. Most signal mirrors have holes in them in which you use to aim at whatever you're signalling. You can use a CD in the same manner."

"How often do you update our overall point totals (grades)?" (After each midterm, and the weekend before the final exam.)

"Where did you get your cool light thingy for your bike?" (It was a Schwinn bike accessory from Target, there are similar kits available online.)

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