Online reading assignment: eclipses, history of astronomy (SLO 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.
"I find solar eclipses to be very exciting, and am thrilled that there is a total solar eclipse coming up in August 2017 that is visible in the United States!"

"I found it interesting that the moon glows copper red during a lunar eclipse, I didn't realize that it was Earth's atmosphere glowing and coloring the moon."

"The difference between the solar and lunar eclipses. This was interesting because I previously didn't realize that we have both partial and full solar and lunar eclipses."

"I was very interested to better understand why solar and lunar eclipses don't happen more often the they do due to the movement of the moon earth and sun in non-perfect harmony."

"That there are different types of astronomers. Movers/disprovers, non-scientists/scientists. This is interesting to me because I thought there was just one category: 'astronomer.' And also that the first astronomers didn't think Earth moved and thought that it was the center of our universe that they didn't know about either!"

"The retrograde movement of the planets in the sy was interesting because I can see how it would be confusing but once Copernicus gave sound reasoning, it made a lot of sense."

"I find the power of these ancient astronomers' minds to be the most interesting. I have a hard enough time remembering scientific facts when they are given to me, they were able to seek them out and sometimes find them for themselves."

"That anyone who might have criticized Aristotle's model of the universe they might be challenging the belief in the locations of heaven and hell, and that they also might be charged with the death penalty. I found it interesting because sometimes I forget how people, especially back then, try to justify and say that their belief is the only way and won't hear out any other opinions and/or theories."

"I really enjoyed learning about the ancient astronomers and philosophers because I think it's so cool to see how we're arrived at our current understanding of the universe. It's amazing how thoughts/ideas that were brought into question thousands of years ago set the foundation for everything we know today."

"I liked the 'mover' or 'disprover' categorization of astronomers, it helps to simplify remembering what they each did. I am usually not so good with memorizing facts like this, so we will see how it goes."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"I found lunar eclipses to be a bit confusing because I'm not exactly sure how Earth's shadow causes the redness of a lunar eclipse. The diagrams didn't exactly help, for me, to see how the shadows and the cycle of the moon."

"I don't understand how you would use the saros cycle to predict when eclipses will occur. It's hard for me to take the info I read and visualize how it actually works."

"I would like to be more rock solid in understanding when solar and lunar eclipses occur."

"The animation with the view from the sun of how the moon revolves around Earth and the alignments which cause the eclipses. This was confusing because I didn't put it together that there is always a slight wobble in the rotation of the moon around Earth."

"How or when we can tell when a solar or lunar eclipse are gong to happen. It was a topic I was very interested in, but I found the action of understanding all the calculations behind it difficult to understand."

"For me, learning about the solar and lunar eclipses were kind of confusing. It's such a complicated idea and process that its hard to keep track of what actually happens when these eclipses occur."

"The differences between first principles, empirical laws, hypotheses, and rational laws. I understand the basics, but if there was an easier way to describe the differences -- that would be helpful for me!"

"Why the geocentric universe model was accepted for so long, despite the many unanswered questions it brought with it."

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.  ****** [6]
Taurus.  * [1]
Gemini.  [0]
Cancer.  ** [2]
Leo.  [0]
Virgo.  ** [2]
Libra.  * [1]
Scorpio.  [0]
Sagittarius.  [0]
Capricorn.  [0]
Aquarius.  * [1]
Pisces.  *********************** [23]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  [0]

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.  ********** [10]
Neutral.  ****************** [18]
Agree.  ** [2]
Strongly agree.  [0]

Briefly explain your answer regarding your belief/disbelief in astrology. (This is just an opinion question, there are no right answers.)
"We learned that most of the astrological signs that people are born in are not accurate. We learned this from our starwheel activity. Really, if our birthday doesn't even match up with our claimed zodiac sign then there is no way that it could actually predict or tell about our future in any way."

"I do not believe the stars can tell my future but am interested to learn what astrology people think about that."

"I don't think that the date and time we were born has anything to do with the people we become or the things we go through. I think it's too vague and too general so people automatically feel as though they can relate."

"I think that astrology can predict a broad idea of things about a persons sign but not directly down to a 'tee' for everyone. Sometimes astrology can be spot on, or it can be completely off. And now knowing that I'm not even the sign I thought I was makes me question astrology even more."

"I don't believe anything can predict the future for me, what is the science behind the stars knowing my future?"

"I still stand in the middle."

"Just because you are not the zodiac sign you've been told your whole life doesn't mean that the stars' alignment cannot effect the events that take place on Earth. We're dealing with high octane explosions and concentrations of gravity etc., and I can see how that could effect us."

"I'm unsure, I feel like everyone has the ability to determine their future by the decisions they make in the now, but all humans are apart of the universe, that has to mean something. There is too many maybe's in my mind to believe in astrology fully or not."

"I think that people with birthdays close to each other may have certain characteristics in common, but that's not necessarily because of how the stars align. I don't believe it can really depict your future."

"I don't know enough about it but I want it to be true."

"I don't necessarily believe that astrology has a prediction of my future but I tend to agree with a few similarities that I have with the astrological signs."

"I am truly uncertain. According to the star-wheel, my birthday lines up between Pisces and Taurus. Perhaps with this new awareness in not being a true Taurus, a little mix of the two signs would be a more ideal prediction."

"I believe in the forces of nature and the universe, and that bigger things have a part in our lives, but I really only read zodiac posts that are goofy and have little to no future predictions. I like the posts that tell me what kind of donut I am based off of my zodiac sign."

"Eh, not really convinced about that but am open-minded."

"I believe that astrology can be linked with behavior and/or personality, but to make full on predictions it has to do with the personalities of each individual."

Match the phase of the moon during these eclipse types. (Only correct responses shown.)
Total solar eclipse: new moon [86%]
Partial solar eclipse: new moon [61%]
Annular solar eclipse: new moon [67%]
Total lunar eclipse: full moon [83%]
Partial lunar eclipse: full moon [61%]

Place these astronomers in chronological order of their historical contribution to astronomy. (Only correct responses shown.)
Aristotle [89%]
Ptolemy [67%]
Copernicus [72%]
Tycho [64%]
Kepler [44%]
Galileo [33%]
Newton [64%]

Match these terms with their descriptions. (Only correct responses shown.)
Ideas accepted as truth without further examination: first principles [83%]
Predictions that could be tested by observations: hypotheses [92%]
Universal statements of cause and effect: rational laws [72%]
Describe phenomena without explaining why it occurs: empirical laws [67%]

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"How often do you post on Twitter? Should we actually follow it?" (Only if you want a notification when the homework answers get posted; the International Space Station passes overhead, or when grades are posted for the midterms and the final exam (no need to actually follow me, just look for the #CuestaAstr210 hashtag).)

"If everything is made up of atoms, are shadows made up of atoms as well?" (Yes, everything is made up of atoms, but atoms interact with each other (and illuminate each other) using light. Shadows are just where light doesn't go.

"So I was thinking: 'P-dog' is a pretty solid nickname, but have you considered something related to Dr. Strange? I mean that'd be a pretty dope way to be remembered; besides you two have some stuff in common (★space★). Food for thought I guess."

"It felt like this week's presentation slides were less helpful that last week's. They were much less descriptive. You ask questions about the pictures, but there were some I didn't know the answer to and the answer isn't provided later in the notes." (The slides are intended to guide you in reading the textbook, which we are going to rely on more for the rest of the semester. In class we will go over the answers to many of the questions in the presentation slides; and the answers to all of the questions from the online reading assignment are posted on this blog for you to read through the following week.)

"Why are stars that people draw (or put up on their childhood bedroom ceilings) have five points? (They have points because of imperfections in our eyes, and have five points probably because of Egyptian hieroglyphs.)

"I was lost during the first week due to my ignorance of the flipped class model. Now I'm on board and prefer this style of learning. It is a plethora of information and if we had to take notes the traditional way I know it would be a challenge to keep up. The flipped class model allows me to process the facts at a speed that works for me."

"I spent at least three minutes searching for an eclipse on the Twilight: Eclipse slide before I actually read the question and realized there wasn't a moon anywhere on it."

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