Online reading assignment: runaway planets, jovian planets, and dwarf planets (oh my!) (NC campus)

Astronomy 210, fall 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 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.
"On Venus its crust is thin so it is not letting magma to push through until enough pressure builds."

"The bigger the planet, the more greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. Its interesting, because it all depends on how close you are to the sun, the farther the colder, the closer the warmer."

"The permafrost that's on Mars, if there's water that's frozen then there might have been life on Mars? because of that saying, 'where there's water there's life.'"

"The search for signs of water on Mars was most interesting to me because I learned a little about it last year and it makes much more sense now"

"Something I found interesting about the reading was the fact that Mars has two moons. And the history of Phobos and Deimos."

"I was not aware that Pluto had five moons, or the reasoning on why it was not considered a planet anymore."

"How the jovian planets in our system differ so much from each other, such as the gas giants and the ice giants. Then you have Earth and Mars. Due to their mass and distance from the sun, how many greenhouse gases and sunlight warmth they can hold."

"I just like the name of the gas planets: 'jovian,' it sounds like they’re happy."

"Learning about the jovian planets. I honestly didn't know that Jupiter and Saturn were grouped as "gas giants," while Uranus and Neptune are grouped together as 'ice giants,' due to their weird warm slushy ice layers."

"That different planets can have different number of moons. Such as how Saturn has 60 known moons."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"Something I found confusing about the reading was the geological activity in Venus. It seems straightforward with green house gases getting trapped in the atmosphere but I'm still confused as to how it can be hotter than mercury if it’s farther from the sun."

"What makes a planet's core hot or cooler than other planets and which are cooler or hotter than others."

"How is it possible that Jupiter has so many moons? Is it because their masses attract each other?"

"It is a little confusing to keep up with all the planets and information on them without getting them mixed up."

"How to distinguish a moon from an asteroid caught in a planet's orbit."

"I'm still somewhat struggling as to why Pluto is not a planet. I do believe this will be something you might have to go over in class. And how they chose the criteria for classification."

"Why Mercury is considered a planet and not a dwarf 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 [33%]
Geologic activity, today: less than Earth [58%]
Volcanic outgassing, up until now: about the same as Earth [33%]
Heat from the sun: more than Earth [83%]
Amount of atmosphere, today: more than Earth [25%]

Identify the relative amounts of these characteristics for Mars, compared to Earth. (Only correct responses shown.)
Interior core heat, today: less than Earth [50%]
Geologic activity, today: less than Earth [42%]
Volcanic outgassing, up until now: less than Earth [75%]
Heat from the sun: less than Earth [83%]
Amount of atmosphere, today: less than Earth [75%]

Which jovian planet has the coolest interior temperatures?
Jupiter (most massive).   [0]
Saturn (most prominent rings).   ** [2]
Uranus (least active weather patterns).   [0]
Neptune (farthest from the sun).   ********** [10]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)   [0]

I believe Pluto should be a planet.
Strongly disagree.   [0]
Disagree.   *** [3]
Neutral.   ******* [7]
Agree.   ** [2]
Strongly Agree.   [0]

Briefly explain your answer to the previous question (whether Pluto should be a planet).
"I still feel as if Pluto is not surrounding anything. I don't have enough knowledge on the matter but it doesn't orbit another planet."

"If it is, great! If not, get over it."

"I was so used to the fact that Pluto was a planet and then it was said not to be one so I was just used to this idea, to me does not particularly matter, the whole concept is confusing, confuses people on whether it is or is not a planet, so I stay neutral."

"It's really small and it’s way out there it's more of a space rock than a planet."

"Pluto can not clear its orbital path like all other planets do so it's not considered a planet. I didn’t put strongly disagree because Pluto is just a rock and a planet is just a word so it doesn’t really matter."

"I don't really have an opinion. I don't really care. I think space and planets in general are just crazy concepts to grasp."

"I'm pretty neutral on it. Even though growing up I was taught that it was a planet I can see why it might not be. But if we can consider gas giants planets, why not a solid frozen piece?"

"There's evidence to show that it is not a planet."

"I mean it's in our solar system for a reason, might as well be called a planet no matter the size. I don't see any harm in calling it a planet again."

"Pluto is the adopted cousin. He may not be blood, but he's family. We can't exclude him."

"I grew up believing that Pluto was a panet, and now I need more clearity in why it is not?"

"I'm still unsure on why Pluto should or should not be considered a planet and i would like further explanation on both sides."

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"Not much, the only thing that confused me was the geological activity of Venus."

"Can you please go over jovian planets?"

"Why do different planets have different amounts of moons?" (That depends on how much mass they have (in order to accumulate material to make and keep its moons), and also location (such as Mars being close to the asteroid belt).)

"Might we at some point consider some of Jupiter's moons planets? How often does the criteria change?" (No, because that would violate the first IAU categorization criterion. Also not as much as you might think.)

"I hope to make it to class this week! Thanks for providing in-depth presentations."

"Crossing out a wrong answer choice on quiz (for potential partial credit) really helps, thanks for making that a thing."

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