Online reading assignment: the Milky Way (NC 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 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.
"The visualization of flattened disc shaped galaxies like our own, was very interesting and helpful for understanding."

"It is interesting that due to the interstellar medium, we can only see a portion of the Milky Way."

"I was intrigued to learn that the spiral arms of the Milky Way regrow and that is in an optical illusion that all matter is being sucked towards the center."

"Dark matter--how it is holding the entire Milky Way together."

"The immense size of our galaxy. I never realized how big it was before."

"That the globular clusters in the halo of our galaxy is made up of mostly made old stars. I had an idea of this but its such a beautiful phenomenon."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"Globular cluster positions--interpreting the map to see how far or close we are from the center of our galaxy."

"Why the spiral arms move like they do."

"I found the self-sustaining star formation confusing. I just don't understand how it works."

"I still am confused about the Milky Way and the components of it because it is hard for me to grasp."

"I understand that we know dark matter exists because visible matter does not mathematically account for all of the gravity in the universe. But I do not really understand the difference between MACHOs and WIMPs."

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.  **** [4]
Not very much.  ******* [7]
Barely seen it.  ******* [7]
(Never been able to see it.)  *** [3]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  [0]

Using the most powerful light-gathering optical telescopes in the darkest skies, __________ of the stars in our entire galaxy can be observed from Earth.
1%.  ***** [5]
5%.  **** [4]
10%.  ******* [7]
50%.  * [1]
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?
"Looking at your reflection in a lake or some other body of water."

"(1) Look at your reflection in a body of water. (2) Stand at the side of the road & pretend to hitchhike--when someone pulls over, check your hair in their side mirror. (3) Just assume it's bad and throw a hat on."

"Roll with it."

"Phone camera."

"I can look at my phone without turning it on because the screen of my phone acts like a mirror."

"Everyday is a bad hair day :("

"Feel your hair to see if it is poofed up or not."

"Feel for 'landmarks' of a bad hair day such as cowlicks or knots."

Look at PimpStar Rims (*.html) for cars, or MonkeyLectric Rims (*.html) for bikes. Briefly explain how they work.
"By programming LED lights to stobe at certain intervals."

"They keep flicking on the lights in the same general area, as the wheel moves. Not the same spokes. This causes an image to be projected on the wheel, as the lights move fast enough to make the image appear whole, not as flashes of light."

"Blinking lights form an optical illusion when they move quickly. The dark spots and lights form shapes that are only visible if the lights are in motion."

"They rapidly blink light and rotate it to create the illusion of an image."


Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"So there isn't a black hole at the center of the Milky Way?" (Oh yes, there is. A supermassive black hole. Not really a big deal, though, for the vast majority of the stars in the Milky Way.)

"Still a bit lost. I honestly thought I would do better by studying more but, it seems as though I can't answer your test questions. I'm sad." (I think you'll do okay. You probably have very high expectations--not a bad thing.)

"How extensive is the final? Is it similar to the midterms?" (The final exam is comprehensive, but it is similar to the midterms in terms of length and selectivity of topics.)

"What would you do if you had PimpStar Rims for your car?" (I would be ashamed. Very, very ashamed.)

"Android or Apple?" (Android all the way.)

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