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

Astronomy 210, fall 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.
"That smaller planets retain less internal heat than larger planets."

"The size of planets have a lot to do with the greenhouse gases and atmospheric density."

"That some other terrestrial planets used to have water on them."

"I found the 'ice giant' planets to be interesting in the fact that their interiors are warm slushy ice layers."

"Saturn's rings, because when I was younger I imagined visiting them for some strange reason."

"The Cooper Cooler effect, because forced circulation caused the water to be cooled faster."

"That there is no sudden boundary between liquid and gas in Jupiter's atmosphere. This is interesting and although I can understand it I wonder what the feeling would be like to pass from gas to liquid without making a splash."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"The polar ice caps on Mars--how is that possible when it has limited amount of water?"

"The three IAU classification criteria."

"Knowing all of the information on each individual planet. I don't know what parts are more important than others so I can't focus on what's needed."

"It's hard to remember what each planet is; I have a bad memory."

"Why pluto isn't a planet."

"How does Venus have so much clouds, but is a 'runaway planet?'"

"I need to make my own little cheat sheet to try and remember each planet's unique characteristics. I get mixed up trying to remember if each planet is hot or cold, or has atmosphere or not, etc."

"I found this reading easier to understand then past readings."

"Nothing was confusing."

"I was a little confused about how the Cooper Cooler effect works."

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 [26%]
Geologic activity, today: less than Earth [39%]
Volcanic outgassing, up until now: about the same as Earth [42%]
Heat from the sun: more than Earth [81%]
Amount of atmosphere, today: more than Earth [58%]

Identify the relative amounts of these characteristics for Mars, compared to Earth. (Only correct responses shown.)
Interior core heat, today: less than Earth [77%]
Geologic activity, today: less than Earth [65%]
Volcanic outgassing, up until now: less than Earth [61%]
Heat from the sun: less than Earth [81%]
Amount of atmosphere, today: less than Earth [81%]

Which jovian planet has the coolest interior temperatures?
Jupiter (most massive).   **** [4]
Saturn (most prominent rings).   [0]
Uranus (least active weather patterns).   **************** [16]
Neptune (farthest from the sun).   ********** [10]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)   ** [2]

I believe Pluto should be a planet.
Strongly disagree.   * [1]
Disagree.   *** [3]
Neutral.   *************** [15]
Agree.   ************ [12]
Strongly Agree.   * [1]

Briefly explain your answer to the previous question (whether Pluto should be a planet).
"Since I was in elementary school it was considered a planet. I was upset that it wasn't accepted anymore but I would understand why they wouldn't consider it anymore."

"It's big-ish. It revolves around the sun even if it's orbit is less conventional. Let's include everyone."

"Pluto was the first planet that we discovered. Without this stepping stone, we would be lost, or dramatically delayed, in finding out all the wonderful things we know about our planet and its solar system. I believe this "planet" will still hold many answers for us, and we can not simply dismiss its existence by declassifying it. How disrespectful."

"It has always been known as a planet so it might as well stay that way."

"I think it should be a planet because it meets all three of IAU planet classifications including it having enough gravity for moons to orbit."

"I don't have enough knowledge or power to say whether or not anything in space should be categorized in a specific way. I don't know if it makes a difference either way."

"Pluto used to be my favorite planet, and then they stopped treating it as one. Even though it's probably not right to call it one, I wish it still was."

"I am indifferent because it doesn't really matter whether it is or is not a planet. It obviously would have been pretty scientifically supported for pluto's title of being a planet to be taken away."

"Because it is the same size as thousands of icy bodies orbiting Neptune and would force us to qualify those as planets. In addition it is neither jovian nor terrestrial in nature."

"Pluto does not meet the standard that a planet must be large enough to dominate and gravitaionally clear its orbital region of most or all ofher objects."

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"Can we go over more about outgassing and retention and runaway atmospheres?" (Yes, we can.)

"I learned 'My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas' to remember the order of the planets. Do you know if there is a new acronym that doesn't include Pluto that they teach now? ("Nachos." That what your mom should be serving now. #mmmnachos)

"Can we get the answers to the study guides for the quizzes? I think it would help with studying." (After going through the flashcard question packet, you can see me right after class, during office hours, or e-mail me to see if your answers are right (don't wait until the night before the quiz!) and I can "grade" your answers and tell you which are correct, and/or go over your incorrect answers with you.)

"Are there extra-credit assignments? To help those of us who want a good grade but who have test anxiety and don't perform well under pressure?" (Yes, there will be a few extra-credit assignments later this semester. But don't forget that you can drop your three lowest quizzes (out of eight total), and we will have review sessions in class for each of the midterms.)

"I blame Magic School Bus for telling me lies."

"I enjoy your presentations--they are not boring at all--you make class interesting."

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