Online reading assignment: runaway planets, jovian planets, and dwarf planets (oh my!) (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 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.
"I found the greenhouse factors unique to each planet was particularly interesting and I was able to read and see how each planet was affected by its conditions and atmosphere."

"The 'frustrated volcanos' on Venus were interesting because The Simpsons GIF animation really made it make a lot of sense."

"Venus may have had a lot of water but due to the greenhouse affect the water turned into vapor and now the planet's greenhouse effect gets worse with time, and I find that fascinating because it proves the possible extreme result of Earth's global warming and human activity in the worsening of our greenhouse effect."

"That Venus and Mars are considered 'runaway' planets because of the fact that they have lost their greenhouse gas cycles...which kinda worries me because what if earth also starts to do the same?"

"That how much mass a planet has contributes to the amount of greenhouse gases it lets out into the atmosphere. Also, how the distance from the sun to the planet determines how much warming there will be from the greenhouse effect."

"The dwarf planets!!!! I had no clue there were other dwarf planets than pluto! Wicked. Haumea is the most interesting to me by far, it's interesting that they classify it "round enough" to be a dwarf planet."

"It is good to finally know why Pluto is no longer considered a planet. Before, I just accepted that fact without giving it too much thought."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"I am confused how both Venus and Mars can have volcanos without plate tectonics."

"Why is Venus so much hotter than Mars since their masses aren't vastly different, and orbits aren't that significantly different?"

"The whole greenhouse things and how they relate to different planets, if you could please go into detail that would be great."

"Greenhouse effect factors are still pretty confusing for me. I've been trying to read up on it more, but I think I just need a simpler way of understanding it! The more I read about it, the more confused I get."

"Uranus--is the axis really that drastically tilted, and could you explain again the impact this has on making it cooler than Neptune?"

"I found Kuiper belt a bit confusing. What exactly is the belt and why are the objects, such as Pluto, located on that belt not considered planets."

"More about Pluto and why it's no longer a planet."

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 [51%]
Geologic activity, today: less than Earth [64%]
Volcanic outgassing, up until now: about the same as Earth [43%]
Heat from the sun: more than Earth [84%]
Amount of atmosphere, today: more than Earth [65%]

Identify the relative amounts of these characteristics for Mars, compared to Earth. (Only correct responses shown.)
Interior core heat, today: less than Earth [81%]
Geologic activity, today: less than Earth [83%]
Volcanic outgassing, up until now: less than Earth [62%]
Heat from the sun: less than Earth [81%]
Amount of atmosphere, today: less than Earth [92%]

Which jovian planet has the coolest interior temperatures?
Jupiter (most massive).   **** [4]
Saturn (most prominent rings).   [0]
Uranus (least active weather patterns).   ******************** [20]
Neptune (farthest from the sun).   ********** [10]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)   *** [3]

I believe Pluto should be a planet.
Strongly disagree.   * [1]
Disagree.   ***** [5]
Neutral.   ******************** [20]
Agree.   ******* [7]
Strongly Agree.   **** [4]

Briefly explain your answer to the previous question (whether Pluto should be a planet).
"Pluto is considered a dwarf planet, along with four others along the Kuiper belt. Pluto was once considered a planet. For the sake of argument, if Pluto was a planet, then the other four should be as well, as they are all on the Kuiper belt. But just because they are all on there doesn't mean they should all be planets."

"If Pluto no longer fulfils the requirements of planethood, then I have no problem with it not being a planet."

"Because it is itsy-bitsy, and scientists say so."

"It's not up to me if it is a planet or not."

"I'm fairly neutral on the topic. I feel if they outline a criteria for what defines a planet then they need to hold consistent with that criteria and no exceptions should be made. If Pluto is granted an exceptions then what is stopping people from defining some of the other dwarf planets as actual planets?"

"I believe if something has moons, it should be considered a planet."

"I grew up with Pluto being a planet, plus I liked Pluto the Dog from Disney movies."

"You can't give a present and take it back without being rude. Can't give it planethood and take it back without being rude either."

"Pluto is like the main character in My Big Fat Greek Wedding that couldn't sit with the cool crowd because her lunch wasn't in a brown paper bag.

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"What exactly is 'outgassing?'" (Gases spewed out into the atmosphere from volcanoes and vents, released from bubbles in molten rock under the crust. So basically, Earth is burping.)

"Ok, from what I have heard and from what is on NASA's website, NASA wants to 'colonize"' Mars. It is to my understanding that Mars is unable to be inhabited by anything because of its low mass and it's practically non-existent volcanic activity to create an atmosphere suitable to sustain life like Earth. So my question is, is it possible? (Yes, if we send people who don't mind staying indoors most of their time, in underground shelters.)

"Do you think Pluto should be a planet? Do you think that we all feel a little bit like Pluto sometimes?" (No, because, reasons. And yes, but that's life.)

"Do you like to go out and get your groove on in downtown SLO? If yes, what is one of your favorite bars to go to?" (I'm one of the DJs for swing dancing at the Madonna Inn on Monday nights.)

"How was your break?" (Mrs. P-dog and I had a snow day up in the mountains. It was awesome. How was your break?)

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