20160315

Astronomy midterm question: Pisces high overhead for October 15 sunset?

Astronomy 210 Midterm 1, spring semester 2016
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

An astronomy question on an online discussion board[*] was asked and answered:
f14: Which constellation of the zodiac is high in the sky at sunset on October 15?
VpD: Right now Virgo is aligned with the sun, so it would be Pisces high in the sky at sunset, I think.
Discuss why this answer is incorrect for an observer in San Luis Obispo, CA. Defend your answer by clearly explaining how you used your starwheel to do this, along with any assumptions that you may have made.

[*] answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100916125243AABASB3.

Solution and grading rubric:
  • p:
    Correct. Discussion includes the following:
    1. sets starwheel to sunset around 6 PM for October 15 (this is also when Virgo, aligned with the sun, will be on the west horizon for that date);
    2. recognizes that Pisces is not "high in the sky" at that time for that date (actually rising in the east), and thus the answer from "VpD" is incorrect.
  • r:
    Nearly correct (explanation weak, unclear or only nearly complete); includes extraneous/tangential information; or has minor errors.
  • t:
    Contains right ideas, but discussion is unclear/incomplete or contains major errors.
  • v:
    Limited relevant discussion of supporting evidence of at least some merit, but in an inconsistent or unclear manner. At least attempts to use starwheel in a systematic manner to locate Orion in the sky at certain dates/times.
  • x:
    Implementation/application of ideas, but credit given for effort rather than merit. Discussion not clearly based on using a starwheel in a systematic manner.
  • y:
    Irrelevant discussion/effectively blank.
  • z:
    Blank.
Grading distribution:
Section 30676
Exam code: midterm01sN0w
p: 36 students
r: 8 students
t: 7 students
v: 3 students
x: 0 students
y: 0 students
z: 0 students

A sample "p" response (from student 8069):

A sample "p" response (from student 1993):

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