Online reading assignment: eclipses, history of astronomy (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 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.
"That a new moon doesn't always make a solar eclipse just because the placement of the moon's orbit is either usually a little too low or too high."

"How gradually astronomers proved more and more by science instead of what they thought, and their opinions."

"That if you were on the moon during a total lunar eclipse you would be able to see Earth's atmosphere illuminated from behind by the Sun, which would be the glow from all of Earth's simultaneous sunsets and sunrises. I think it would be interesting to see. I think it's cool you would be able to see all Earth's simultaneous sunsets and sunrises at once if you were on the moon."

"Solar and lunar eclipses, partially due to the fact that we just had a solar eclipse occur, and also just the rare conditions it actually does occur and the beauty they both have."

"The differences between lunar eclipses and solar eclipses because I couldn't figure out the difference between them before. I also found it cool that a lunar eclipse has a copper-red color. Also, how astronomers over history conflicted with each others' works, because it showed how people had to speak up about important information to get to what our view of astronomy is today."

"How there could be some discrepancies in the astrological sun-sign dates. I'm just intrigued on how the Earth makes this a possible thing."

"When eclipses can happen. I didn't know that the moon has to be either new or full and that the moons orbit is aligned edge-on in order for a an eclipse to occur."

"I thought that the solar and lunar eclipse was somewhat interesting as I had not associated the rotation of the moon around the earth (for some reason) with eclipses. By that I mean that I hadn't considered the question 'why isn't there an eclipse every time the mon is either new or full.' I guess it puts into perspective the complexities of each orbit."

"The fact that there were different classifications for astronomers. I had personally thought that all astronomers both refuted and created new ideas and had assumed that they were all science-based. It's interesting to know that that's not the case."

"Why we don't have a solar and lunar eclipse every month. the reason I found this interesting was because I did not know that the moon's revolution around the earth tilts up and down causing eclipses to only happen every so often."

"If you were in the moon's penumbra you wouldn't be able to see a total solar eclipse; I'm not an astonomy major so many of this stuff is new."

"I didn't realize how a solar eclipse can affect a large region, but only one specific location will get the total blackout."

"I really enjoyed learning about the history of astronomy itself. Specifically the Copernicus model. I found it really interesting that, despite his book on the new idea around a heliocentric universe being widely looked forward to by the church, he was still nervous to publish it under the fear of persecution."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"I was slightly confused by the eclipse animation--how many months apart are eclipses?"

"The umbra and penumbra terms."

"How moon phases affect solar and lunar eclipses, or if they do at all?"

"How you classify ancient astronomers. I found many of them both movers and disprovers, as well as the fact that they had to use some math to come up with their theories, and yet the textbook was very unclear as to how they came up with it."

"Epicycles and deferents, because I have trouble picturing how they work. I kind of get that an epicycle is a circle around a bigger circle, but that's it."

"The concept of a first principle. How people just take an answer as truth without any further explanation boggles me."

"I understand what totality does and how it occurs, however I'm confused on what determines where totality occurs."

"How exactly eclipse's can occur. Can the moon be in any phase or specifically a phase(s) are the only way for there to be an eclipse."

"How to tell the difference between each eclipse."

"I could not quite grasp the Copernican argument that disproved the theory that earth is the center of the universe (referring to the part where the planets seem to have a distorted orbit in relation to earth as well as the retrograde motion). I feel like this is because it is both difficult to visualize the paths of the planets and because I don't understand Ptolemy's model (as in, the scientific assumptions at the time, such as the nature of gravity) to compare the both of them."

"At first I found the precise circumstances of a solar eclipse confusing. However, my friend, who was in astronomy for a short time last semester, helped me understand it more. I think it was how the visual was set up that was confusing me. I am, however, still confused about whether a solar eclipse can be caused by a full moon, new moon, or both. I feel like it might be both, but I'm not 100% positive...nevermind, I actually just used Google to answer my specific question and I think I figured it out."

"The exact positions, timing, and phases for lunar and solar eclipses."

"How ancient astronomers distinguished planets from other stars so easily, they named them and everything. I just don't understand how they did that considering they didn't have telescopes."

"Rational laws vs. empirical laws."

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.  **** [4]
Taurus.  [0]
Gemini.  [0]
Cancer.  [0]
Leo.  [0]
Virgo.  * [1]
Libra.  [0]
Scorpio.  [0]
Sagittarius.  [0]
Capricorn.  [0]
Aquarius.  [0]
Pisces.  ********************* [21]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  *** [3

I believe astrology is able to make accurate predictions about my future. (This is a follow-up question.)
Strongly disagree.  [6]
Disagree.  ****** [6]
Neutral.  ************* [13]
Agree.  **** [4]
Strongly agree.  [0]

Briefly explain your answer regarding your belief/disbelief in astrology. (This is a follow-up question.)
"I still feel neutral to my belief or disbelief in astrology. I think its still a little weird as do I feel the same way about anything that has future predictions. Sometimes I will read in to horoscopes and almost relate to their predictions but I also feel that it might just be a psychological placebo effect."

"I still believe that God has given man the ability to make choices, and these choices that man makes are the only thing that can change their future."

"I still I am neutral on the topic of astrology being able to predict my future. Sometimes their predictions may or may not actually relate to my life but I try not to get to carried away with those beliefs."

"Although I don't completely agree that the star's alignment can predict my future, I do believe that some elements like Mercury being in retrograde can affect some things."

"I still don't believe in horoscopes, but I am still stuck on how accurate the personality traits of each sign can be."

I don't think it can't accurately predict anybody's future for several reasons. For example, when I've heard of people talking about what may happen it is usually general stuff that can happen anyway not something highly specific."

"I just have no personal experience with the stars predicting my future. Horoscopes state very general things that can accurately describe anyone but people will only look at their own star sign to see what the stars say about them. On the contrary they are very fun to read."

"I feel predictions about my future based on my sign have been accurate at times but mostly false."

"It honestly disturbs me that there is a greater force than myself that determines my future, pseudoscience makes me feel like I'm forcing myself to believe in something that doesn't make sense but is easy to identify with which leads me to just disbelieve in its existance."

"Astrology is definitely interesting but I do not believe the star allignment can predict my future when I barley know what I'm doing."

"I belief in astrology because of the facts it can provide, however I won't let it take away from my religion and what I believe."

"Just because something can't be proven or disproved scientifically doesn't make it more or less true, and just because a fool speaks the loudest in a group of people, this doesn't mean that person represents the voice of all of the people in that group. I have seen astrology make very interesting (and often inexplicable and very specific) predictions just as I have seen tarot, the I Ching, and fortunetelling, but I have also seen it make absolutely ridiculous, nonspecific, and inaccurate predictions (always varying from predictor to predictor, rather than prediction to prediction)."

"Despite the fact that the star wheels have our zodiac signs being off by one, I still believe that astrology can be pretty accurate. Again, I am basing this off of a complete chart and not just the sun signs that have been changed by the current star chart. In the end though, fate is what you make."

"I personally believe there is more to astrology than just the sun signs, and that, mixed with numerology, has and can be very truthful about life events and/or personalities."

"Even though many people don't believe in astrology making predictions about one's future I still believe that there are certain characteristics that we have and certain things that may happen to us in the future depending on the day we were born and the way the stars were aligned on that day."

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 [69%]
Annular solar eclipse: new moon [59%]
Total lunar eclipse: full moon [97%]
Partial lunar eclipse: full moon [69%]

Place these astronomers in chronological order of their historical contribution to astronomy. (Only correct responses shown.)
Aristotle [72%]
Ptolemy [72%]
Copernicus [76%]
Tycho [76%]
Kepler [62%]
Galileo [62%]
Newton [76%]

Match these terms with their descriptions. (Only correct responses shown.)
Ideas accepted as truth without further examination: first principles [79%]
Predictions that could be tested by observations: hypotheses [83%]
Universal statements of cause and effect: rational laws [72%]
Describe phenomena without explaining why it occurs: empirical laws [62%]

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"Thanks for letting us know exactly what to read on blogs/presentations, really helpful and essential for us students!"

"I don't really have any relevant questions right now. But I just want you to know that, even though this class can be kind of confusing sometimes, I really enjoy it and think you're an awesome teacher."

"Why do you keep referring to how boring the material is? I understand that many people are not truly interested in astronomy, but I wouldn't downplay its importance. Interpreting statistical data manually is boring and almost useless, but learning about the celestial bodies is interesting and almost essential. (P.S. the pop culture references are throwing me off much more than the terminology, somewhat ironically.)"

"Will we learn more about astrology?" (When we review for the midterm, we'll do a little more astrology--specifically what your rising and setting signs are.)

"I think it is so cool how these ancient astronomers were able to know so much about the heavens without having any high-tech gear. #determination"

"Why can't you have a solar or lunar eclipse with anything but a new or full moon?"

"What do we need to know about the history of astronomy for our tests and quizzes? How much in-depth? Newton's laws of motion?" (We'll discuss what you specifically need to focus on when you read this chapter.)

"I've been really enjoying the classes and the readings so far, the last few classes have really helped me understand the content I had read over the weekend. Excited to learn more about the ancient astronomers in our class discussion!"

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