Online reading assignment: history of astronomy, telescope powers (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 reviewing the history of astronomy, Kepler's and Newton's laws, and telescope powers.

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.
"The idea that Kepler was able to come to the conclusions that he did, without knowing the why, and still be accurate enough that his laws were dubbed 'natural laws' is mind-boggling. I love seeing historical examples of just how smart the best of humanity can be throughout time. That people can do/figure out basically anything they put enough time and resources into."

"I really enjoyed how Kepler's laws were more of a 'how,' and then later Newton's laws were more of a 'why' explanation. Interesting how they went hand-in-hand."

"Newton's cannon was interesting to me. The visual aid really made it clear to me how gravity acts on an object in horizontal motion."

"Galileo's defense of the Copernicus model and Isaac Newton's findings on gravity and how those relate to astronomy were really cool to read. It's interesting because I knew of both those people but never thought of them as founders in the science of astronomy."

"That Galileo was condemned for disobeying orders not to speak of or teach the principles of Copernicus and that people studied this trial for so long. It's interesting because religion played such a huge role in science."

"I always knew the moon affected the tides but I was never sure how it did and now I do. It makes a lot of sense that the side of Earth facing toward the moon is closer which makes the gravitational force stronger causing the bulges hence the tides changing."

"The Futurama clip from the slides was interesting because it effectively points out that magnifying does not enhance clarity or detail."

"That one of the last and largest refracting lens telescopes is in San Jose. It's interesting to me because I love history and live very close to San Jose."

"The differences in the telescopes were pretty neat. I didn't know that there were different aspects to a telescope."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"Reading about the astronomers was a little difficult just because it's a lot of information and a lot to remember about each person."

"The diagrams and questions relating to Earth and where and where the other planets are in the sky at at given time (sunrise, sunset, etc.)."

"I'm getting retrograde and prograde motion mixed up in terms of direction. Is there an easy way to remember this?"

"Kepler's laws. I just need a more in-depth explanation of the laws because I'm getting confused on what I'm reading. The one I would like to go over the most is the third one."

"Why couldn't Kepler explain any why the reasons for his laws and Newton could?"

"I don't know if we'll need to know this, but the math involving Kepler's laws had me stuck. The 'orbital period squared is proportional to the semi-major axis cubed' language just isn't one I'm fluent in. Maybe seeing that diagrammed would help me to understand it."

"Kepler's laws were confusing to me because I think it's the first time I've really seen them so maybe I will get them memorized in the future, but I got the Newton's laws down."

"Differences between inner and outer orbits, and why does one move slower than the other?"

"Remembering all the telescope specifics will be difficult for me."

"That the Keck Observatory uses two primary mirrors for interferometry. It doesn't make sense because I don't understand how you can get a better image with two separate mirrors."

When a planet is undergoing retrograde motion, over several nights it moves __________ with respect to the background stars.
east to west.   ******************** [20]
west to east.   ******** [8]
(Either of the above choices is possible.)   ***** [5]
(Unsure/lost/guessing/help!)   **** [4]

When a planet is undergoing prograde motion, over several nights it moves __________ with respect to the background stars.
east to west.   ********* [9]
west to east.   *********************** [23]
(Either of the above choices is possible.)   *** [3]
(Unsure/lost/guessing/help!)   ** [2]

Categorize each of Kepler's laws.
(Only correct responses shown.)
Kepler's first law: describes the shape of a planet's orbit. [73%]
Kepler's second law: describes the motion of a planet along its orbit. [72%]
Kepler's third law: describes the motion of a planet along its orbit. [62%]

Categorize each of Newton's laws.
(Only correct responses shown.)
Newton's first law: relates forces with changes in motion. [65%]
Newton's second law: relates forces with changes in motion. [59%]
Newton's third law: describes a property of forces. [65%]

The __________ power of a telescope depends on the: (Only correct responses shown.)
light-gathering: diameter of the primary lens/mirror [49%]
resolving: diameter of the primary lens/mirror [70%]
magnifying: both the focal lengths of the primary lens/mirror and eyepiece: [22%]

The least important feature to consider when purchasing an optical telescope is the __________ of its images.
brightness.   *** [3]
resolution.   **** [4]
magnification.   ************************ [24]
(Two of the above choices.)   ** [2]
(Unsure/lost/guessing/help!)   **** [4]

Briefly explain your answer for the least important feature to consider when purchasing an optical telescope.
"Magnification is not important because it will only enlarge the image, not make it brighter or more clear."

"Brightness and resolution are important for gathering good images, I feel like it's easy to switch an eye piece out to improve magnification, but I don't think it's possible to upgrade the resolution and brightness unless you upgrade your telescope."

"They all seem pretty important, it's hard to figure out which one is least important."

"I do not know."

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"I feel like it would nice to only have to be in one group for the remaining of the semester."

"Please spend some time going over these slideshow presentations. The animations are confusing to me without an in-person explanation. Thanks!! :)"

"What is the difference between retrograde and prograde? Will you show a video in class from a whole perspective on how it works?"

"Can a planet that is undergoing retrograde undergo prograde at the same time?" (No.)

"Could we please go over Kepler's laws?"

"Do you have any tricks to memorizing Kepler's laws and Newton's laws?"

"Enjoyed learning about history in Chapter 3. It's interesting to think of how far humanity has progressed in such a (relatively) short span of time and how we've gone from thinking that Earth was the center of the universe (or even thinking it was flat) to the complex understanding of the universe we have now. I wonder what humanity could discover within the next few thousand years."

"Do you own a telescope?" (No, because I can use the Cuesta College telescopes anytime I want.)

"The specifics of what to look for in a telescope were confusing to me. Maybe that's something we should spend some time on in class."

"I'm the type of learner where I need to be touching things and to be honest I'm a bit lost on the whole telescope vocabulary and how they work." (Tonight you'll get to touch telescopes.)

"When you give us things to study or learn...you ask a lot of questions without giving answers, why? That's like throwing a baby into a pool and expecting it to swim before it has even learned." ((1) The answers to the previous reading assignment are always posted within 12 hours after it closes; and part of every future reading assignment is to go to the links provided to review those answers. (2) I don't know what to specifically explain in class unless I probe where you are experiencing difficulties in before you come to class. If that turns out to be everything, then that's okay, I'll talk about everything in class. If most students seem to understand something, then we won't waste time on that topic in class. So I do have to ask questions that "stretch" you. You still get credit for completion, not correctness, so just try your best.)

"If a bookstore never runs out of a certain book, does that mean that nobody reads it, or everybody reads it?"

"Favorite place to hike in SLO?" (Maybe this one. Or that one.)

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