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.
"Learning about the different types of eclipses, because I never bothered to learn the difference between the different types of eclipses."
"Learning about the penumbra and the umbra. I had no idea they named different types of shadows (although I'm not surprised!)."
"Solar eclipses are so cool because of how the sun, moon, and earth are all lined up at once. Anything about the moon so cool to me though."
"Learning about solar eclipses, mainly because we just got the chance to see one this past summer. I understood the general concepts, but getting to see what specifically made the opportunity to see one last year is so much more wonderful."
"The timing of the moon's orbit and phases--I didn't know that the moon's orbit tilted like that, and that's why there isn't always an eclipse every new or full moon."
"The reasons why we do not see a solar or lunar eclipse each full moon or new moon. Also, that astronomers can predict when the next eclipse will occur."
"How lunar and solar eclipses are more common than I previously thought."
"That ancient astronomers centered Earth rather than the sun, and aligned that with their religious beliefs."
"How ancient astronomers figured out things about motions in the sky simply by looking--whether true today or false--without our technology. "
"It must have been horrible to think that you could have the death penalty just for questioning Ptlolemys model of Aristotle. What other people had good input or suggestions? They couldn’t speak up because of fear."
Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"The difference between an umbra and penumbra."
"All of the new terms and concepts: penumbra, umbra, lunar and solar eclipses. VERY confusing."
"I really don't get the solar eclipse concepts. I knew what I thought was correct but after reading the book, I just got confused. Please go over that."
"How to identify whether a lunar eclipse is about to happen when looking at the (nearly) full moon."
"I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around how to consistently determine what phase the moon is in during solar eclipses vs. lunar eclipses."
"I seemed to get myself a little jumbled up about the different terms for eclipses. I think I just need a run down in class to get it straightened out."
"Personally, I'm confused about predicting eclipses and knowing how everything lines up. That doesn’t make sense to me."
"The idea of 'scientists' versus 'non-scientists' is slightly confusing to me because I traditionally viewed them all as scientists."
"The epicycles in Ptolemy's model. Luckily that's not actually how things work."
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.   **  Taurus.    Gemini.   *  Cancer.    Leo.   **  Virgo.   *  Libra.   *  Scorpio.    Sagittarius.    Capricorn.    Aquarius.    Pisces.   ****************************  (Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)   ***** 
I believe astrology is able to make accurate predictions about my future. (This is a follow-up question.)
Strongly disagree.   *************  Disagree.   **********  Neutral.   ***********  Agree.   *****  Strongly agree.   * 
Briefly discuss what you know now (that you didn't know before) that may (or may not have) affected your earlier opinion regarding your belief/disbelief in astrology. (This is a follow-up question.)
"I did sort-of believe that things said about astrology could be true. However, after finding out that my sign actually isn't my sign made me rethink the time I have spent reading my horoscope. Maybe my new sign will be even more accurate."
"I have learned that astronomy is completely different then what I expected. I learned there is so much more information regarding horoscopes and other ideals given by astronomers. I do agree it is a little weird to think about the different cycles being able to control your future, which is why I disagree."
"I have never believed in astrology, and I still do not believe in it, but I do think it is entertaining to read such detailed predictions about certain astrological signs. I love to pretend that it is real."
"What I know now about astrology does not change my disbelief in astrology. I believe that the starwheel reveals which stars are in place around my birthday but it doesn't do anything more for me like tells my future or anything."
"I'm a little upset my sign is technically wrong. But it's cool to know that the predictions could still be right."
"I think that it maybe makes some sense that my horoscope almost never matched, but I'm still not a big fan of astrology."
"I AM A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SIGN. before this class I thought I was a capricorn and had always read that horoscope and never questioned it (although I never really related) then after I looked on the star wheel I realized I am actually a Sagittarius. Before, I never identified with my horoscope leading me to not believe in it but now that I've read and really identified with another sign, I really like the advice it gives me and the characteristics are dead-on. My mom also discovered that she is a different sign too!"
"I learned that because of precession, the sun doesn't line up with the right zodiac signs."
"I had heard that the signs were wrong or flipped a long time ago but I did not believe them."
"I still don't think that stars and stuff can really affect anything or predict anything in my life."
"I knew that the sign in the stars could tell your future in your horoscope. At times I would like to believe in it."
"I have a better understanding on how people are able to know where constellations are during the daytime."
"I personally don't feel that my existence affects the stars existence, so therefor they do not have the ability to make predictions about my future."
"Knowing that zodiac signs do not correspond with which constellation the sun is actually aligned with definitely creates some doubt around the whole thing."
"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."
"The sun aligns with the signs each month. Over time, because of Earth's tilt, these constellations move little by little and eventually a new constellation will align. Therefore, predictions based on the old sun alignments will be one month off rendering all horoscopes useless. I'm also not superstitious and believe everyone has complete control over their life."
"Because of precession, the sun signs (or astrological constellations blocked out by the sun during certain months) will gradually begin to change. The original established time frames that dictate sun signs have therefore changed over centuries, making most people's signs something new. Astrology is a sham!"
"I have the same belief that astrology does not predict my future. It's still super-fun. I find it interesting that the sun signs are different due to the slowly changing sky."
"I learned no new information on astrology, as I have rallied against it since I was able to comprehend astronomy as early as sixth grade."
"I did not know that popular horoscopes decides our astrological sign based off of what the Greeks saw in the sky and how that has since changed. I thought I was a Cancer, but I guess I am actually a Gemini. I definitely relate to a Cancer though so I am going to pretend that I am."
"I did not know that the stars have since shifted so far that each sign would technically be considered to be a different astrological sign. This does not change my thinking though, since I still believe that people have more free will than for their personalities to be predicted through the stars."
"I did not know that the precession of Earth affected where the zodiac constellations would be over time therefore altering what we've been told about our birth signs. This did affect my earlier opinion from disagree to a strongly disagree. I mean come on, the OG way is cool but I'd rather know what the sky actually looked like on the day of my birth."
"I believe in astrology. However I do not believe that the alignment of certain stars can and will predict my future. They can predict eclipses and seasonal changes but not my future. But the zodiac constellations and signs have been around for ages. I think they do have some sort of significance to us as humans born under a certain sign and a significance to the space beyond our knowledge.I didn't know that my sign would be different according to the sun signs."
"I previously thought that astrology was all false, and even now, after reading about pseudoscience and how it has been proven that there is no connection between the sun, moon and people's personalities, I still find myself reading my daily horoscope and falling for the words I'm reading. Guess that goes to show that pseudoscience really is a stranger to logic."
"The knowledge I obtained has not changed my belief, however I did find it interesting that our zodiac signs are now incorrect due to precession."
"I think it's pretty cool that our actual astrological signs are different that what are commonly considered and thought to be true."
"Do to precession the basis of astrology seem to be even more shaky then I thought which helps me to maintain my disagreement with astrology."
"When previously asked to describe to what extent I believed astrology could be capable of making accurate predictions about my future I marked 'disagree' and am now marking my answer as strongly disagree' simply because in-class discussion only strengthened my disbelief in the power of astrology as a predictor of the future."
"I had no clue where the signs came from. It is really cool seeing that astrology is real, despite not believing they can predict my future."
"Even though we learned that the astrology signs are off according to the actual sun sign, I still do not believe that astrology can predict someones future because I believe people have their own free choices in life."
Match the phase of the moon during these eclipse types. (Only correct responses shown.)
Total solar eclipse: new moon [73%]
Partial solar eclipse: new moon [58%]
Annular solar eclipse: new moon [65%]
Total lunar eclipse: full moon [85%]
Partial lunar eclipse: full moon [63%]
Place these astronomers in chronological order of their historical contribution to astronomy. (Only correct responses shown.)
Match these terms with their descriptions. (Only correct responses shown.)
Ideas accepted as truth without further examination: first principles [75%]
Predictions that could be tested by observations: hypotheses [85%]
Universal statements of cause and effect: rational laws [70%]
Describe phenomena without explaining why it occurs: empirical laws [63%]
Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"Did you watch the total lunar eclipse early this morning? And are you going to talk about it?" (Yes, and yes.)
"I am kind of confused on the phases of the moon during the eclipse types, could you go over them?"
"How can I tell when the moon has the right or wrong phase and wrong or right orbit for an eclipse to happen?"
"I could not find the phases of the moon during the different eclipses in the textbook."
"This is some complex, tough stuff!"
"For anyone who feels like they might benefit from a little more guidance in this class, do you recommend (a) study groups, (b) tutoring (is that even available for this class?), (c) the simple practice of asking lots and lots of questions in class, or (d) something else not even mentioned here?" (We're finding it hard to find an astronomy tutor for this semester. Other than that, yes, do all the rest of the things.)
"I am hoping I do well on this quiz on Wednesday, P-dog."
"I really enjoy your teaching style and your attitude, and the website is awesome. My other online classes are nowhere near as organized. Thank you for your dedication to be a great instructor, it shows."
"You seem just as much interested in the way people learn, as you are in teaching astronomy/physics."
"Everything astrology says is a lie and I love it."