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 reviewing the history of astronomy, Kepler's and Newton's laws, and telescope powers.
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 fact that the concepts we use and teach today about planetary motion were discovered over 500 years ago."
"How long the time period was for the development of astronomy. I liked this because it really puts into perspective how long it takes for the things we have today and maybe take for granted to come to be."
"I didn't realize all the people it took to contribute to the laws of gravity and the motions of planets. These law were refined multiple times by astronomers before they were actually correct and its very fascinating to learn about the whole process and how long it took to put all the laws from all the philosophers together to perfect it."
"I personally found the history of the astronomers interesting. I felt like it gave a better understanding of how amazing the discoveries were of their time(s) especially without modern conveniences we have now. I also liked how some of them remained proactive about their discoveries, even though others attempted to discredit them or say their findings were false. I also appreciated a better explanation of Newton's three laws of motion. Although I would probably need a little bit more explaining about them along with Kepler, I still found it fascinating."
"That Venus has the least elliptical orbit in our solar system."
"Kepler's laws, the second one in particular where the amount of time a planet "sweeps" out of each area is always the same, even though the speed varied throughout its orbit."
"I found the online animations helpful for understanding Newton's and Kepler's laws, I have heard of them but just now am learning what they were."
"The donut on a string clip; the visual helped me understand the concept of gravity pulling on orbiting planets."
"That Galileo wasn't technically prosecuted for his belief that we are in a jeliocentric universe, but rather for disobeying the orders of a cardinal 17 years earlier. And then of course Bellarmine was dead by the time he could testify."
"As William Herschel put it, infrared was the discovery of INVISIBLE LIGHT. It blew my mind because when you think light, you assume visibility."
"Finding out how telescopes are made. It's cool to actually see how it's all pieced together and learn the differences between telescopes and what makes a telescope more powerful."
"Learning more about how a telescope is designed and how you use one. I've always loved to look through telescopes, so it was cool to see what's inside them."
"How telescopes work and dealing with chromatic aberration and light pollution, because I'm a photographer and deal with these same occurrences constantly in my photography."
Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"Kepler's second law of planetary motion was confusing to me because I couldn't fully understand the concept, or I have over thought the law, but the idea that a line between Earth and the sun sweeps equal areas in equal intervals of time isn't really making sense."
"Kepler's third law. I don't quite understand how the math works out and what kind of values you use for a planet's orbital period."
"I would like a little more clarity on the difference in time it takes a planet to orbit based on whether its on the inner or outer orbit."
"I found Newton's laws more difficult to understand (than Kepler's) just by reading, would appreciate some clarification in class on those."
"The one thing that I can't wrap my head around is the way the planets revolve around the sun. to give you a better idea of what I mean; in space if you throw something one way it will keep going that certain way without altering course unless it hits something. So why do planets move in a circular motion and not straight? How exactly does that happen; to make something move in a circular motion? My only thought of a solution would be gravity acting like a string tethered to each planet from the sun."
"The measurements and powers of telescopes, but that could be just I need some hands-on interaction with to really get a grasp on the idea."
"The electromagnetic spectrum. It's like reading another language, I think its the vocab thats most intimidating. Can you please go over this?"
"Telescopes!!!!!!!!!!!! So many different things to know about telescopes, short primary vs. long primary? Primary lens/mirror?"
"I didn't completely understand the light-gathering power and the resolving power. Could you explain this a bit more in class?"
"The most confusing thing was how all the parts of a telescope work together to create it's different powers. It was the first time I actually felt like I needed to take notes to remember it."
When a planet is undergoing retrograde motion, over several nights it moves __________ with respect to the background stars.
east to west. *******************  west to east. *************  (Either of the above choices is possible.) **  (Unsure/lost/guessing/help!) **** 
When a planet is undergoing prograde motion, over several nights it moves __________ with respect to the background stars.
east to west. ***********  west to east. ********************  (Either of the above choices is possible.) **  (Unsure/lost/guessing/help!) ***** 
Categorize each of Kepler's laws.
(Only correct responses shown.)
Kepler's first law: describes the shape of a planet's orbit. [82%]
Kepler's second law: describes the motion of a planet along its orbit. [79%]
Kepler's third law: describes the motion of a planet along its orbit. [71%]
Categorize each of Newton's laws.
(Only correct responses shown.)
Newton's first law: relates forces with changes in motion. [66%]
Newton's second law: relates forces with changes in motion. [66%]
Newton's third law: describes a property of forces. [55%]
The __________ power of a telescope depends on the: (Only correct responses shown.)
light-gathering: diameter of the primary lens/mirror [68%]
resolving: diameter of the primary lens/mirror [55%]
magnifying: both the focal lengths of the primary lens/mirror and eyepiece: [26%]
The least important feature to consider when purchasing an optical telescope is the __________ of its images.
brightness. ********  resolution. ***  magnification. *********************  (Two of the above choices.) *  (Unsure/lost/guessing/help!) ***** 
Briefly explain your answer for the least important feature to consider when purchasing an optical telescope.
"Magnifying power is the least important feature to consider, it pretty much just enlarges the images after the fact, so you may be getting larger pictures of dim, fuzzy images."
"Magnification is not necessarily important. It doesn't always work the way its intended. If there isn't enough light and resolution, it will often just give you a bigger image that is dim and fuzzy."
"Brightness and resolution cannot be changed easily, but the resolution can be changed by changing the eye piece."
"Magnification is just adjusting the given image to make it easier for the naked eye to see it. Magnification is changed by adjusting, or more commonly, swapping out the eyepiece, which is FAR cheaper than buying a better telescope."
Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"How does grading work for the online reading assignments? What if you get one answer wrong? Do you get marked down?" (As long as you complete the assignment and put something thoughtful down for the comments, you'll get full credit, just for trying.)
"Can things be better explained in class? Im having trouble understand all the content to the full potential. I do a lot of reading and still feel like I can not fully grasp all the information." (Yes, the results from the online reading assignments inform me which particular topics to focus on during class.)
"Just confused about how the planets are able to move in a circular fashion rather than just float off in to space." (We'll see how that's possible with Newton's laws.)
"Do you think it is possible to make a Smell-o-Scope (from Futurama) to smell another planet? If so, what do you think we could learn from the smell of another planet?" (Apollo 11 astronauts experienced the smell of moon dust tracked into their landing module; they described it as smelling like gunpowder. #smellyoulater)
"Is there a specific telescope you recommend to a student with high interest and moderate amount of coin?" (Can't go wrong with Craigslist for a basic starter scope, and then can always get more serious later with a bigger diameter telescope.)