Online reading assignment: eclipses, history of astronomy (NC campus)

Astronomy 210, spring semester 2017
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 eclipses, and an preliminary overview of the history of astronomy.

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 we can often see Venus and Mercury throughout the year. I was always unsure about it before and now I know where to look."

The progression of historical astronomy. Trying to see the logic of outdated concepts is intriguing."

"How eclipses are dependent on the timing and orbiting of the moon. I was always curious why not every full moon is a lunar eclipse, and not every new moon is a solar eclipse. I knew the answer had something to do with the path of the moon, but I didn't know for sure."

"How you can view the solar eclipses using a pinhole in a card. I always knew looking at the sun whether there is an eclipse or not can damage your eyes, but how to look at eclipses safely seems very interesting to try it out."

"How something so small like the moon could completely cover something as big as the sun simply because of distance and perspective."

"Eclipses, because of their historical context. People used to understand them in different ways, usually with religious significance. Some people might still revere them in this way, but it is interesting when compared to our modern understanding."

"I have always believed a lunar eclipse was caused by the sun blocking the moon. I'm not sure where this belief came from or why I never questioned it because sitting here thinking about it now that makes no sense. Learning that they are actually caused by the moon moving through the shadow of Earth was really cool and seems logical."

"I found the story of Copernicus very interesting, mostly this is the first time I am learning of this man. including is that Aristotle's philosophy was so valued that it became part of some religions, via the most perfect region was in the heavens and the most imperfect was in the Earth's core which went with common belief of the locations of Heaven and Hell."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"Right now it is very hard to differentiate between all of the astronomers, just because there is so much information about all of them. But it is something that I will continue to work on, and they should be easier to tell apart in the future. Something confusing from the presentation slides is were it talks about the timing between the moon phase and slowly changing moon orbit, how the timing between these two cycles determines whether or not there is a solar or lunar eclipse during a new or full moon. I get confused of how to tell when it has the right or wrong phase and wrong or right orbit."

"That the moon turns a coppery color during a lunar eclipse was strange. How is it that Earth's shadow could cause the moon to change color like that?"

"Umbra and penumbra. Maybe it was because they're kind of funny words :), but I was also confused about if you're standing in the penumbra, what you would see, and the same with umbra."

"The apparent retrograde motion of planets. I just want a little more info. I understand I think."

I believe astrology is able to make accurate predictions about my future. (This is just an opinion question, there are no right answers.)
Strongly disagree.  ****** [6]
Disagree.  ******** [8]
Neutral.  ******* [7]
Agree.  * [1]
Strongly agree.  [0]

Briefly explain your answer regarding your belief/disbelief in astrology. (This is just an opinion question, there are no right answers.)
"It's hard to believe that astrology is accurate, when I now know that precession changes the alignment of the sun and the constellations. Maybe if horoscopes didn't solely depend on birth month and also accounted for the birth year, then astrology would be more reliable. Discussions in class previously have made me not believe that it has any merit in predicting futures Well I just learned from last class that my astrology sign is not really my sign. So now in learning this new information, I feel now that I disagree about the issue. I guess now that I am learning the actual truth about astrology and how it works It has changed my neutral perspective. I don't believe it to predict my personal future but may predict eclipses and season changes."

"Again I don't know how the alignment of things might influence your life. Maybe the seasonal changes and solar energy might have an affect, but I don't see how everyone born in the same month or so would lead the same lives."

"Same reasons as before. The sign is simply based on what constellation the sun happened the be in front of. How does that have anything to do with predicting one's future?"

"I don't exactly agree it predicts my future because its been wrong several times. But i think the personality traits that are part of the different signs is accurate. I'm a scorpio and it accurately describes me."

"I stand by my statement as that I do believe in astrology but not enough to live by it, life is ran by chances, nothing is set."

"My belief hasn't changed. I still don't believe the placement of stars can predict at any accuracy things from my future. My belief is held firmly in God."

A friend of yours has a birthday on March 30. According to your starwheel, the sun would have been located in front of which zodiac sign on that date? (Ignore daylight saving time.)
Aries.  ** [2]
Taurus.  ** [2]
Gemini.  [0]
Cancer.  [0]
Leo.  [0]
Virgo.  ** [2]
Libra.  [0]
Scorpio.  [0]
Sagittarius.  * [1]
Capricorn.  [0]
Aquarius.  [0]
Pisces.  ************** [14]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  * [1]

Match the phase of the moon during these eclipse types. (Only correct responses shown.)
Total solar eclipse: new moon [68%]
Partial solar eclipse: new moon [54%]
Annular solar eclipse: new moon [54%]
Total lunar eclipse: full moon [77%]
Partial lunar eclipse: full moon [59%]

Place these astronomers in chronological order of their historical contribution to astronomy. (Only correct responses shown.)
Aristotle [100%]
Ptolemy [86%]
Copernicus [82%]
Tycho [81%]
Kepler [65%]
Galileo [64%]
Newton [86%]

Match these terms with their descriptions. (Only correct responses shown.)
Ideas accepted as truth without further examination: first principles [77%]
Predictions that could be tested by observations: hypotheses [95%]
Universal statements of cause and effect: rational laws [77%]
Describe phenomena without explaining why it occurs: empirical laws [68%]

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"Maybe a little clarification on partial/total eclipses and their different effects on total solar eclipse versus annual solar eclipses."

"I like the use of videos/animations in the class. Being able to see how things move along with different patterns and paths of other things is helpful."

"When finding your zodiac sign on the starwheel does it matter where your date and time are set or just that the date matches up to the sign? Why haven't modern astronomers adjusted the zodiac signs for accuracy if it's actually important?" (You need to line up 12 PM (noon) with your birthdate, and then look for where the sun and your (proper) zodiac sign line up along the meridian, high up in the sky. And people tend to freak out when they hear about how zodiac signs have been changed in order to be consistent with current night sky cycles.)

"Is it true that you can only see this year on August 7 a partial lunar eclipse depending on where you live on Earth?" (Yes, but it's not going to be visible for San Luis Obispo county. But on August 21, there will be a total solar eclipse across the U.S. that will be visible as a partial solar eclipse right here in San Luis Obispo county!)

"I know we have the reading of the chapters, but I am worried about the exams and quizzes. Where is there a study guide, and also where can I get help on this class, because this is tough for me to wrap around my head. I've tried to go to the student center but they have no tutors on this subject. I just want to pass this class and get some help while I'm at it."

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