Online reading assignment: atmosphere problems, Earth, the moon, Mercury (SLO 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.
"Light pollution is the reason why in the movies people go star gazing outside of the city like in the top of a mountain. I never knew why but after doing the reading now I know it's because both light from man-made or natural sources will be reflected by particles in the atmosphere and interfere with light from the faint stars, washing them out."

"Finding out why stars 'twinkle' because I didn't know why before I read the section."

"That the sky is basically an ocean of air, and what you see is easily distorted."

"How much we see in the sky is washed out by man-made light and natural light (the moon)."

"Thought it was really cool how they have now put telescopes on aircraft. It's just something that I wouldn't of thought of; however, it's for the most part pretty effective and more cost effective."

"Something that interested me was the turkey vs. Cornish hen effect. It interested me because it helped me understand the concept of the cores of planets."

"How most of the carbon dioxide is entered into Earth's atmosphere through volcanos, and absorbed through the ocean. Like I thought it was entered from the ocean and absorbed by plants."

"I had no idea Mercury and our moon looked so much alike! For this reason I thought this was the most interesting thing."

"The theory about the moon and Mercury's core is very interesting. I've never thought of planets colliding and changing the sizes of the cores on the planets and moon."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"I can't seem to grasp the concept of how the telescopes work and how the magnification, light-gathering, and resolving powers differently affect the way you can view things in the sky."

"The different powers of telescopes. I'm not a very visual person so it was hard for me to imagine how light enters and reflects to create and amplify certain images."

"I'm having trouble understanding atmospheric turbulence. Although the example of humans living at the 'bottom of an ocean of air' made sense, I can't figure out how to quite understand how it works with twinkling."

"Turbulence was a little confusing. I'm not sure how the Keck Telescopes work using the active optics."

"The large-impact hypothesis. I was just kind of lost about the whole collision thing and how it formed what exactly."

"I'm not confident in answering 'what is oldest/youngest' with regards to our moon and Mercury's craters. I've read the chapters, some more than once, and read the slides but for some reason I can't figure this out."

A large modern optical telescope in outer space would have images with better __________ than a comparable ground-based telescope.
brightness.   * [1]
resolution.   ************* [13]
magnification.   [0]
(None of the above choices.)   * [1]
(Two of the above choices.)   ******** [8]
(All of the above choices.)   ********* [9]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)   **** [4]

Stars to appear to "twinkle" in the night sky because of...
"Atmospheric turbulence causes stars in the sky to look distorted or "twinkle." It stirs up the air making it hard to have a clear image of what's in the sky. This is why getting as high up as possible for viewing is important so the air is thin and you can get less disturbance from the atmosphere."

"Atmospheric turbulence in the 'ocean of air.'"

Identify how carbon dioxide enters and how it is taken out of Earth's atmosphere.
(Only correct responses shown.)
Enters atmosphere from: volcanoes [67%]
Taken out of atmosphere by: oceans [61%]

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) [36%]
Flat lava plains: middle [28%]
Craters on top of flat lava plains: youngest (formed most recently) [53%]

Identify the oldest (longest ago) to the youngest (most recent) features on Mercury.
(Only correct responses shown.)
Large crater basins: oldest (formed longest ago) [58%]
Lava-filled lowlands: middle [42%]
Long curving ridges: youngest (formed most recently) [47%]

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"Why doesn't air turbulence cause planets to twinkle? (The planets do twinkle, but it's not as noticeable. The stars are basically points of light, and 'twinkling' a point of light will make it noticeably distorted. Planets are large enough to be a small disk of light, and 'twinkling' a disk would only distort its edges, so the effect on its brightness is not as noticeable.)

"There was a lot of material covered over the presentation previews and textbook reading so some general clarifications would be nice."

"Could you please go over the relative ages of the moon's and Mercury's surfaces?"

"Why is the core of Earth hotter than Mercury's core?" (That's the turkey vs. Cornish hen effect.)

"Why is it that terrestrial planets are closer to the sun, while jovian planets are farther away?" (During the formation of the planets around the young sun, the inner planets formed closer in where it was hotter, and the outer planets formed farther away where it was cooler. Because of this, a lot of ices and gases were vaporized off of the terrestrial planets as they formed, so they are primarily rocky, while in the outer parts of the solar system it was cool enough for ices and gases to form around rocky cores and make the jovian "gas giant" planets.)

"Do you own a telescope?" (No; but I get to use Cuesta College's telescopes whenever I want to.)

"Where was the Hubble Space Telescope when it sent its last transmission?" (It's still working, last I checked.)

"Are you a Star Wars fan?" (Yes, but the original, non-special edition episodes IV-VI only. The most recent two sequels were okay, though.)

"What got you into swing dancing?" (I need to get out and get a life. Oh, and I met Mrs. P-dog from going out swing dancing.)

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