Online reading assignment: eclipses, history of astronomy (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 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 the basics of eclipses, especially after the recent solar eclipse. I was also aware of different types of eclipses but I did not know what they looked like so there were nice examples in the presentations."

"Aristotle first principle that the heavens were perfect and unchanging. His name sounds way more familiar than any other philosopher back in the day."

"The history of the models of the universe."

"Learning about how scientists changed their idealogy from a geocentric universe to the heliocentric universe."

"That powers of pyramid shapes and also zodiac signs and astrology are considered pseudoscience. this is interesting to me because so many people still study, observe, report, and believe in these things even when proved beyond a reasonable doubt to be false."

"That Kepler's life did not match his future passions and profession at all."

"Something that was interesting to me was finding out that you can look up at the sun if you are in a TOTAL eclipse. This was interesting to me because I didn't think you could look up at all during an eclipse. But it does make sense, obviously, if it's completely covered."

"Looking back on the ideas of ancient astronomers were very interesting. Especially the thought of 'uniform circular motion.'"

"That astronomers initially thought Earth was the center of the universe. I find it interesting because now we have so much evidence to disprove that theory, but they were basing it completely off of what they could see with their naked eye."

"That Copernicus' model was inaccurate but his hypothesis was correct."

"The reason a lunar eclipse does not occur every full moon is that the orbit of the moon is usually tilted not edge-on, but too high or too low. I never thought about there being a lunar eclipse every full moon but it makes sense why there wouldn't be after reading it in the presentation preview. The timing between the moon phase and slowly changing moon orbit needs to be perfect which is why there is not a solar or lunar eclipse every new or full moon."

"How people just accepted a 'fact' just because a smart person said it. It is also really cool that we know when a eclipse will happen!"

"Learning about why a total lunar eclipse happens, and how it gets a faint red glow that is light coming through Earth's atmosphere."

"That eclipses happen during a new moon OR full moon. I thought it was only at a full moon. Also, I thought it was interesting that the astrological sign I thought I was is wrong! My life is a lie!"

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"Generally speaking, I'm still pretty confused with the starwheel. I feel like when we first worked with them, the group setting was inefficient."

"Actually I am still confused by the starwheel and have even looked at YouTube videos on how to use the thing and I'm almost there, but still, confusing to me."

"If you can see the ragged edges around the moon, does that mean it is or is not a lunar eclipse? I was confused because the description in the presentation says that the moon with the shadow at the bottom is too high for an eclipse, but then says if you see a slight ragged edge at the top or bottom, a lunar eclipse is not about to happen."

"The tilting of the moon's orbit. I can't wrap my head around it right now and I feel like I just need a more detailed explanation about the tilt and orbit for why an eclipse does and doesn't happen."

"Knowing how to find out where you need to be located on Earth to see a lunar eclipse happening."

"I am trying to grasp the difference between lunar and solar eclipses. And matching the phase of the moon during these eclipse types... HELP"

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.  *** [3]
Taurus.  ** [2]
Gemini.  [0]
Cancer.  [0]
Leo.  [0]
Virgo.  *** [3]
Libra.  [0]
Scorpio.  [0]
Sagittarius.  [0]
Capricorn.  [0]
Aquarius.  [0]
Pisces.  ************************* [25]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  ** [2]

I believe astrology is able to make accurate predictions about my future. (This is a follow-up question.)
Strongly disagree.  ****** [6]
Disagree.  ****** [6]
Neutral.  ******************* [19]
Agree.  *** [3]
Strongly agree.  * [1]

Briefly explain your answer regarding your belief/disbelief in astrology. (This is a follow-up question.)
"I am neutral, but leaning more on the disagreeing side. I don't think astrology can make accurate predictions of the future, but then again I haven't tried that out much so I have little experience or information to go off of."

"Don't really believe or disbelieve; I just like a good horoscope every once in a while."

"As I said before, I'm sort of a skeptic about all of it, simply because I do think that it gives very general answers and it could be 'true' for anyone, but if there are pretty accurate predictions about my life in this class, then cool!"

"Sometimes astrology can predict broad things, but not every little single detail of someones life."

"I am the master of my fate, not the stars."

"I still don't believe astrology can make accurate predictions because it isn't science-based. The fact that it's off about a month just solidifies my belief."

"I believe they may predict some part of vague futures, but the stars can only say so much especially when our future is always changing."

"leaving us only to comprehend the world around us. Does our date of birth and astronomical sign define who you are? I would say no. Not relevant enough to define who you are."

"It helps some people in a psychological level. I think it is just ment to be a fun thing to do or a conversational starter."

"I always find it odd to hear a person say, 'Oh! There's a slight shift in the moons gravity ,and that's why this week I've been feeling a bit off.' I don't know if I should find those people odd or actually intellectual in some matter?"

"I think it is a very strong coincidence that my personality is very aligned with the description of my zodiac, Leo."

"Knowing now that the signs are a month off raises some questions. And its kind of sketchy as to why you would have certain traits associated to signs. I'd like to hear why they would give a certain sign a certain trait or behavior."

"As a Taurus and a rising Taurus I am very stubborn and set in my answer."

"More often than not, depending on the source, I personally have found astrology predictions and vague descriptions of my own astrological sign (Scorpio) to be fairly accurate at the time."

"Although astrology is a pseudoscience, I still believe there is some connection between what's happening in space and people's behaviors."

"I still believe that there is some connection between the date, time and location of our birth that is tied to our energy or personalities. I also believe that things like the full moon, retrogrades and etc also play a roll in our energy."

"I am shocked that my zodiac sign is not what I thought it was my whole life, however I still believe it to be true and now I just have to check a different sign then I used to."

Match the phase of the moon during these eclipse types. (Only correct responses shown.)
Total solar eclipse: new moon [69%]
Partial solar eclipse: new moon [51%]
Annular solar eclipse: new moon [51%]
Total lunar eclipse: full moon [77%]
Partial lunar eclipse: full moon [57%]

Place these astronomers in chronological order of their historical contribution to astronomy. (Only correct responses shown.)
Aristotle [100%]
Ptolemy [86%]
Copernicus [86%]
Tycho [69%]
Kepler [40%]
Galileo [37%]
Newton [74%]

Match these terms with their descriptions. (Only correct responses shown.)
Ideas accepted as truth without further examination: first principles [86%]
Predictions that could be tested by observations: hypotheses [91%]
Universal statements of cause and effect: rational laws [77%]
Describe phenomena without explaining why it occurs: empirical laws [74%]

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"Were we supposed to read the rest of Ch. 3 for the other astronomers?" (Well, just to skim the timeline of astronomers, and definitions of empirical and rational laws.)

"What are the main differences between empirical laws and rational laws? I could not find rational laws in the reading." (Empirical laws: "description of a phenomenon without explaining why it occurs (p. 46)." Rational laws were not explicitly defined in the reading, but Newton's second law is cited as an example of a "cause-and-effect" statement that can only exist in the "rational" universe.)

"Can you explain the path of Mars in the sky better?" (We'll look at prograde and retrograde motion starting tonight, and in more depth next week.)

"How should I be using the website? Do you recommend going back-and-forth from the book to your website or just doing one and then the other?" (Whatever works for you, depending on your style of learning and/or the material covered.)

"Do you have any 'tricks' to remember the astronomers and their importance or is it strictly memorization?"

"What is the cat's name that is in your profile picture?" (Pocahontas--also, she has her own Facebook page.)

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