Online reading assignment: the Milky Way (SLO campus)

Astronomy 210, spring semester 2018
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 the Milky Way's shape, size and composition and spiral arm structure and formation.

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.
"It's pretty crazy to think we don't know what our galaxy looks like for sure."

"That we are able to observe that our galaxy has a disk shape even though we cannot get a real image of what it is like from an outside point of view."

"The fact that the entire galaxy is not made up of stars. and that the stars we do see is only apart of the milky way galaxy."

"The spiral arms--I think galaxies are so unique and colorful, learning more about the shapes interests me."

"How we are able to perceive our position in the Milk Way by observing star clusters above and below us."

"Dark matter--that we're able to observe galaxies and deduce their gravitational patterns without really understanding where it comes from or being able to quantify those characteristics."

"The description of dark matter was both interesting and confusing, because why does dark matter effect nothing on the outside of the halo? Why does it occur in a perfect sphere if there are multiple sources?"

"The analogy where we looked at dark matter in the terms of a criminal at large. It really makes sense to have its existence put in terms of this situation. I really liked the phrase 'though the case may never be definitively solved, doesn't mean that this person (dark matter) doesn't exist.' Why is this interesting to me personally? I think any time information that is confusing to me can be put into some type of cool analogy I am set."

"Dark matter, despite the fact that we do not know much about it."

"Dark matter is really interesting. I think just for the simple fact that we don't fully understand it, I am intrigued by it."

"Dark matter, because I didn't know it made up the majority of the Milky Way."

"Density waves interest me but also very much confuse me!? I really like the fact it helps make our beautiful galaxy even more so. I also think it's badass that our galaxy gets its spiral arms from swallowing others!"

"Density waves and how they are caused! Gravitational interactions from the collision of thin disk galaxies (with no spiral arms) pulling in dwarf galaxies causing 'ripples' that form density waves."

"I have no doubt that there were many things that would have been interesting."

"All of it."

"All I know is that I want PimpStar Rims on my car. It would be so cool.

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"I'm confused about all the information that we can find in the H-R diagram. I can't keep track of it."

"The section on globular clusters and cepheid variables is super-confusing. I don't really understand how those things work at all, honestly."

"Dark matter, because it's cool and strange."

"Dark Matter. How the heck does that stuff work?"

"Dark matter...all I know is that there is not much to learn since not much is known of it in the first place."

"How is the spinning of the Milky Way related to the way light-up rims spin on car tires?"

"How Milky Way spiral arms can grow back such as the legs of sea stars."

"Density waves! What kind of time frame are we talking about with these stars living and dying? How solid is the evidence we have and how can we improve from what we have already? What's the next evolution is solidfying or discovering more solid information about of true shape and size?"


"I know everything so I'm not confused at all."

"Everything is slightly confusing for me until P-dog breaks it down for us in class."

In your experience, how much of the "Milky Way" (the band of faint stars across the celestial sphere) have you been able to see in the night sky?
As much as can be seen with the naked eye.  *************** [15]
Not very much.  ********** [10]
Barely seen it.  ****** [6]
(Never been able to see it.)  **** [4]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  *** [3]

Using the most powerful light-gathering optical telescopes in the darkest skies, __________ of the stars in our entire galaxy can be observed from Earth.
1%.  ********** [10]
5%.  **** [4]
10%.  **************** [16]
50%.  * [1]
100%.  [0]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  ******* [7]

If you did not have access to a mirror while camping, what could you do to find out whether or not you're having a bad hair day?
"Find still water."

"I would look at my reflection from a metal spoon."

"A camera! Take a picture and see how it looks!"

"Know that I'm gonna have one regardless."

"Only leave the tent at night so nobody can tell."

"Assume it's bad and put a hat on."

"I'd leave it, lol it's just camping. I don't think the birds, bears, and deer are going to care too much over a few fly away hairs."

"Ask a friend/fellow camper to describe to you the state of your hair to you."

"You could feel with your hands to see if any hair is going in any crazy directions."

"Use my shadow."

Look at PimpStar Rims (*.html) for cars, or MonkeyLectric Rims (*.html) for bikes. Briefly explain how they work.
"They hook up lights to your rims that light up with your car."

"The images are created using a strobe modulation technique. LED lights are timed to light up at certain points in a full rotation so that, to the naked eye, a still image is created with multiple flashing images."

"As the wheel is spinning the individual lights are programmed to blink at a certain time and gives the viewer an image. If the wheels were not spinning and the lights still blinked the same you wouldn't see an image."

"The lights that flash are timed and synced up to the speed that the wheel goes in order to light up at the correct time making really cool patterns and light combos on the face of the wheel."

"It has to do with lag and certain timing of when lights need to flash or not flash."

"Persistence of vision: flickering lights plus motion/movement."


Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
I liked the spinning light-up rims analogy."

"What do the light-up wheels have to do with us learning about the Milky Way?"

"Do you have PimpStar Rims on your car?" (I have them on my bicycle.)

"Do you think we will ever be able to really understand dark matter? (Probably, hopefully it's a graduate student that makes that discovery, he/she will get full credit and a Nobel Prize.)

"Can you get fired for __________ inside a classroom?" (The first of astronomy class is you do not talk about astronomy class. #siristhisatest)

"I have two exams before tomorrow's quiz, so other than quiz prep, I haven't had much time to focus on the new material. I'll get to read tomorrow!"

Do we (the students) have to always ask a question or make a comment for every weekly survey in order to get credit?" (No, this last section is optional. However, if you leave a lot of the sections above blank, then you can make up for that by leaving something substantial here.)

Is our final cumulative? (Yes, but selectively cumulative, not "everything cumulative." You'll be given a definitive list of things on a study guide, and if something's not on that list, then it's not on the final exam.)

"Hello?" (Yo.)

"No comment." (You just did.)

"I have been watching a lot of slime videos and all of the galaxy pictures look like slime I could make."

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