Online reading assignment: runaway planets, jovian planets, and dwarf planets (oh my!) (NC campus)

Astronomy 210, spring semester 2016
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.
"Learning about other planets."

"I enjoyed reading about the criteria that makes a planet, a planet. I did realize there were criteria other than it orbits the sun."

"That Venus' atmosphere is hot, unbreathable, and very dense."

"How quickly the Russian landers were destroyed by Venus's atmosphere."

"All things about Jupiter's atmosphere. Growing up that was the most intriguing planet (besides Pluto of course)."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"Greenhouse effect. I don't understand how it works for the other planets."

"Determining the core temperature of a planet. From my understanding, mass has the most to do with core temperature, but I'm not confident enough to say for sure."

"How Pluto is not a planet! Up until I took this class, I've always thought it was concerned a planet."

"It is hard to keep track of all the planets."

"How a runaway greenhouse effect occurs and how it can destroy a planet's habitability so quickly."

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 [54%]
Geologic activity, today: less than Earth [54%]
Volcanic outgassing, up until now: about the same as Earth [39%]
Heat from the sun: more than Earth [85%]
Amount of atmosphere, today: more than Earth [69%]

Identify the relative amounts of these characteristics for Mars, compared to Earth. (Only correct responses shown.)
Interior core heat, today: less than Earth [46%]
Geologic activity, today: less than Earth [54%]
Volcanic outgassing, up until now: less than Earth [46%]
Heat from the sun: less than Earth [46%]
Amount of atmosphere, today: less than Earth [69%]

Which jovian planet has the coolest interior temperatures?
Jupiter (most massive).   ***** [5]
Saturn (most prominent rings).   [0]
Uranus (least active weather patterns).   ******* [7]
Neptune (farthest from the sun).   [0]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)   * [1]

I believe Pluto should be a planet.
Strongly disagree.   * [1]
Disagree.   *** [3]
Neutral.   ***** [5]
Agree.   ** [2]
Strongly Agree.   ** [2]

Briefly explain your answer to the previous question (whether Pluto should be a planet).
"Because it was through 90% of my life."

"Only because it does not meet all three criteria to be considered a planet. That's not saying it might not be promoted to planet later on again, but the fact we do not have clear images to study and determine certain features, it's hard to declare Pluto a planet."

"Pluto does not fit in to the category of terrestrial or jovian planets. Also, there are different requirements Pluto does not meet. However, and I may not know enough to say this but Pluto may be a different type of planet. Maybe we just need to do some more tests and research."

"It was originally discovered as a planet and I don't think that should be characterized as anything less than that. Kind of like when an adopted child discovers their biological family--people they share the same DNA and personality traits with. It does not mean that they are no longer a part of their adoptive family."

"Pluto's like the runt of the planets! It shouldn't be excluded."

"I want to say its because I've grew up always with the illusion that it was a planet. As I was reading many think it is not considered a planet because of its size, but I think its actually not that small."

"I don't really agree or disagree with the thought of Pluto being a planet. I grew up being taught that Pluto was a planet, but it really doesn't effect me whether its considered a planet or not."

"Because I grew up with it being a planet, and I understand it's not anymore because it doesn't fit the criteria of being a planet. But I still wish it was a planet."

"It is not big enough to clear its orbital region of other objects."

"Pluto fits within the guidelines of a being dwarf planet. I see no reason why it shouldn't be classified as a dwarf planet."

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"I find the Large-Impact Hypothesis kind of interesting. I don't really understand how this theory works. I understand it as two things having the same matter hitting each other at excessive speed and impact creating and explosion and create a new thing with the existing matter. If two baseball players who have strong arms and great pitch speed to throw an apple at each other, they will not make a new apple but instead make applesauce? (Yes, but if the apples are both planet-sized such that their mutual gravity becomes important. In fact, their mutual gravitational pull will cause them to accelerate towards each other, such that when they collide, their cores (seeds) will attract each other and combine to make a larger core, and their "applesauce" (crust material) will hang around as a molten cloud where most of it eventually coats the seeds (making Earth, with a core and crust), and the remaining cloud of "applesauce" will coalesce and become the moon (very small core and very thick crust). #themoonisapplesauce)

"Planets are complicated."

"Whatever Neil deGrasse Tyson says about space is probably true, so I really can't argue with him."

"Do you think Pluto should be a planet?" (No. Because life isn't fair. Didn't we already talk about this on the first day of class?)

"What does space smell like?" (In space, you don't smell space, space smells you. And space can smell your fear. #beafraid #beveryafraid More seriously, Apollo mission astronauts reported that moon dust smells like spent gunpowder.)

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