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

Astronomy 210, fall 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 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.
"How massive planets have hotter cores than less massive planets. Earth has a hotter core than other terrestrial planets because it is the most massive."

"The fact that Earth is not dying as much as some other planets and the moon. The heat of the cores has a lot to do with this apparently. I had no idea that that was the case."

"The hypotheses for the origin of Earth's moon because the moon is an object which is frequently seen and to know how it came to be is something I find interesting."

"How what we can see is such a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum."

"Why stars twinkle--I originally thought that the twinkle in stars had something to do with their gases; I did not think it was something as basic as our atmosphere's turbulence."

"That we live at the bottom of an ocean of air. Never thought about it like that."

"The electromagnetic spectrum is interesting to me because it is fascinating how our world is permeated with waves invisible to the naked eye. The most frightening of those waves being gamma rays, seeing as gamma ray bursts are emitted whenever a star explodes. and these bursts can wipe out a planet!"

"That the moon looks very similar to Mercury, while one is a planet and the other is a moon. Why do they look so similar, if they very different?"

"The large impact theory, because I feel like a massive collision could not produce something like the moon."

"How the ocean takes carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere."

"This was probably the most interesting section to me so far, especially with all the really dope time lapse videos from ISS and also the Keck telescope. Other than that it also really cool to see the theories we have on the formation of Earth and also how Earth differs from our neighboring planets and the moon."

"I knew Earth was special because it has a lot of water, but I never really realized how much water it has and how little water other planets with water have."

"That Mars and Venus were once different planets with different characteristics such as having water and different atmosphere. I am also glad Earth got its secondary atmosphere otherwise we wouldnt be here."

"How Venus is essentially a 'greenhouse effect gone wrong,' and how Earth is at a high risk for following suit."

"Adaptive optics, because it shows how important resolving power is when looking through a telescope."

"The 'Keck in Motion' video was super-fascinating! It was crazy to me that everything was so precise and complicated, and it made me question what is so important that billions of dollars should be spent on such projects? Regardless, that was a cool video!"

"I always thought that the different shades on the moon were just shadows. I had no idea the mare is dark because of dark lava also."

"How global warming is affecting Earth currently."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"Trying to wrap my head around how mere wind can distort the image in a telescope."

"Adaptive optics."

"How exactly Earth's core heat would benefit life forms. Obviously if ours was super-cold nothing would survive, but I feel like opposite should be true as well. Maybe ours is just right though."

"The greenhouse effect."

"I could use a little more discussion on the greenhouse effect, specifically how the oceans are responsible for controlling the amount in our atmosphere. I didn't quite follow the soda pop explanation."

"What was the reason for why Mercury's core is big for a planet of its size?"

"Determining features of the moon and Mercury that are or older or newer."

A large modern optical telescope in outer space would have images with better __________ than a comparable ground-based telescope.
brightness.   ** [2]
resolution.   ******* [7]
magnification.   [0]
(None of the above choices.)   * [1]
(Two of the above choices.)   ****** [6]
(All of the above choices.)   ********** [10]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)   * [1]

Stars to appear to "twinkle" in the night sky because of...
"We are viewing them through layers of turbulent air in the Earth's atmosphere."

"The stars twinkle in the night because of turbulence in the atmosphere, kind of like looking at the sky from underwater."

Identify how carbon dioxide enters and how it is taken out of Earth's atmosphere.
(Only correct responses shown.)
Enters atmosphere from: volcanoes [59%]
Taken out of atmosphere by: oceans [67%]

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) [44%]
Flat lava plains: middle [37%]
Craters on top of flat lava plains: youngest (formed most recently) [15%]

Identify the oldest (longest ago) to the youngest (most recent) features on Mercury.
(Only correct responses shown.)
Large crater basins: oldest (formed longest ago) [52%]
Lava-filled lowlands: middle [52%]
Long curving ridges: youngest (formed most recently) [59%]

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"I never knew turbulence in the sky cause stars to appear as if they are 'twinkling.'"

"It would be nice if we would be able to have the answers to the worksheet packets so that we can know whether we are studying the correct answers." (As a matter of policy the answers to the worksheet questions are not published. However, you are free to ask questions while I'm circulating during group work in class, come in to office hours, or e-mail me your answers, and I can "grade" them for you. Just don't wait until the last-minute to do so.)

"How can the adaptive optics tell the shape of something that scientists do not know the shape of?" (Without turbulence, stars are supposed to be perfect points of light; so if you can manage to "undistort" light affected by turbulence to get stars back to looking like points, then anything else in that part of the sky like planets, nebulae, and galaxies will then be undistorted.)

"Do you believe in the big bang theory? If not, what is your belief on the formation of our planet and the other planets in our solar system?" (I understand the evidence supporting what we know about the big bang theory; that pretty much sums up how I feel about things I understand vs. things I believe in (but don't understand).)

"Why is it that certain types of electromagnetic radiation cannot make it past the Earth's atmosphere? Does that mean the higher we go in space the more spectrum we would be able to see?" ((1) Atoms and molecules in the atmosphere are really good at absorbing or scattering gamma rays, x-rays, and some ultraviolet and infrared light, but atoms and molecules are for the most part relatively more "transparent" to visible light, letting it pass through; so (2) yes.)

"It was interesting to learn that the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide. The ocean is already so great, but it's cool to know it also does that too."

"Can you go over the youngest and oldest features on the moon and Mercury?"

"I'm loving this class so far, I'm always eager to start this class's homework first! Can't wait to learn more next class. :D"

"I don't have a question. Thank you."

"Why do you wear your watch upside-down?" (I've cracked a lot of watch face crystals, so wearing it facing "in" (or "upside-down") seems to protect it from my accident-prone everyday activities. #umopapisdn)

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