Online reading assignment: atmosphere problems, Earth, the moon, Mercury (NC campus)

Astronomy 210, spring semester 2018
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 problems caused by the atmosphere for telescope observing, Earth, and the impacted worlds: the moon, and Mercury.

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 love telescopes, and I always love understanding that large diameter equals more light gathering capability, Which is everything."

"How turbulence is what gives stars their 'twinkle.' I never knew it was because of disturbances stirring up the air in the atmosphere that caused a distorted view, which causes the twinkle we see."

"Light pollution--how sensitive telescopes are, and also due to personal experience--during the most recent eclipse I traveled to Oregon and went to a government research facility with a radio telescopes and we weren't allowed to even have our cell phones on due to the sensitivity of the telescopes."

"I found the whole spectrum of visible light interesting and very informative. Being that I had minimal to no clue as too what it was to begin with."

"That Earth's turbulence caused the twinkling in the stars--I thought they were just the flames flicking in the atmosphere."

"Effects of atmospheric winds on starlight."

"Each power of telescopes, especially to learn and read in detail about them. Also, being able to identify the different shapes and sizes of telescopes in class was very cool and interesting."

"This might sound dumb...but I didn't know how much manual labor was involved with operating and maintaining those big telescopes ("Keck in Motion"). I thought a person just sat behind a computer and pressed a button for everything."

"That Mercury and the moon being somewhat similar was interesting. I didn't think that they would have been."

"How the moon and planets such as Mercury have changed over time and the changes to the landscape."

"The large impact hypothesis--I have never heard/thought of anything like this happening and it blows my mind that it might have happened."

"I didn't know that the oceans dissolved carbon dioxide at the level it did; causing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere to lessen."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"I found active optics and adaptive optics to be confusing, I don't understand the difference between the two."

"Active and adaptive optics--I just would like you to go over them in class."

"I don't really like telescopes."

"The oldest features of the moon and Mercury because I can't really tell what would be the oldest."

"The 'planetary smash-up' of two colliding planetsimals. Is this a hypothesis on how the moon was formed or Earth was formed? Or both?"

A large modern optical telescope in outer space would have images with better __________ than a comparable ground-based telescope.
brightness.   * [1]
resolution.   ******* [7]
magnification.   [1]
(None of the above choices.)   [0]
(Two of the above choices.)   ***** [5]
(All of the above choices.)   **** [4]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)   *** [3]

Stars to appear to "twinkle" in the night sky because of...
"Stars appear to twinkle at night because the light from the stars travels through the air and causes the light to bend a certain way. This causes changes in the light from the stars that we see from Earth and us seeing the 'odd twinkle.'"

"Stars appear to twinkle due to the movement of air in the earths atmosphere. The light bends which causes some of the stars' light to be seen and some to not be as seen which causes the illusion of twinkling."

"Turbulence in the atmosphere that stir up the air and cause distorted astronomical viewing."

"This is due to turbulence in Earth's atmosphere. If the atmosphere is unsteady, then the stars will twinkle more."

"My guess would be light pollution?"

Identify how carbon dioxide enters and how it is taken out of Earth's atmosphere.
(Only correct responses shown.)
Enters atmosphere from: volcanoes [43%]
Taken out of atmosphere by: oceans [57%]

Identify the oldest (longest ago) to the youngest (most recent) features on the moon.
(Only correct responses shown.)
Craters partially filled in with flat lava plains: oldest (formed longest ago) [43%]
Flat lava plains: middle [24%]
Craters on top of flat lava plains: youngest (formed most recently) [48%]

Identify the oldest (longest ago) to the youngest (most recent) features on Mercury.
(Only correct responses shown.)
Large crater basins: oldest (formed longest ago) [55%]
Lava-filled lowlands: middle [50%]
Long curving ridges: youngest (formed most recently) [67%]

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"I only live about 15 minutes away from North County campus, but because I live out where there isn't much man-made light, there were about twice as many stars visible compared to when we viewed them on Thursday on campus. There were so many I had trouble finding some of the ones we'd looked at! What's the minimum amount of light that's capable of polluting the atmosphere enough to hide some stars? Is even a phone flashlight too much?" (For hard-core naked-eye observing, any amount of man-made light pollution is bad, as even a little would affect the faint stars of the Milky Way. Long time exposures help to reveal faint stars in photos, but even then the effect of light pollution also gets brightened as well. Phone flashlights aren't too much of a big deal, though those would have a big impact on temporarily ruining your night vision.)

"Can we go over in more detail the oldest to youngest parts of both Mercury and the moon?."

"A little confused about the youngest to oldest questions of the planets. The book just words it confusingly."

"Do you want students to bring anything to the star parties (other than people)?" (Just bring your love of astronomy (and any like-minded people as well).)

"I'm not quite understanding this material and need help."

"Why are the questions on our quizzes four points each and not two points each? :/"

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